Gold Glove awards are often cited in making a case for a player's inclusion in the Hall of Fame and often referenced when touting the prowess of a free agent's defensive skills. Despite this, very little of what went into the process of achieving Gold Glove status was understood.
In a historic agreement between Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc. and the Society for American Baseball Research, the process of determining the best fielders in baseball changed, for the better, on August 19, 2013.
With the winners set to be unveiled, don't expect gut feeling or highlight reel plays to determine the 2013 Gold Glove winners.
Instead, every single defense play charted, along with those highlight reel moments, will factor into determining the most deserving fielders from the 2013 season.
Using a combination of defensive numbers from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, along with the eye test from watching thousands of innings of baseball this summer, here are predictions for all the 2013 Gold Gloves winners.
AL: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
The 2013 winners at the catching position should represent both the present and future of catching dominance in Major League Baseball. In the American League, 23-year-old Salvador Perez has become Kansas City's most indispensable player because of an impact bat and Gold Glove caliber defense behind home plate.
According to Fangraphs, Perez saved 11 runs behind the plate for Kansas City in 2013. That figure was nine better than the next best catcher in Defensive Runs Saved, Toronto's J.P. Arencibia. Considering that every ten "runs" is roughly equal to one WAR, Kansas City owes one of their 86 wins solely to Perez's ability behind the dish.
NL: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Molina is the gold standard for catchers in this generation. During my youth, it would have been hard to convince me that a better defensive catcher than Ivan Rodriguez would come along at any point in my lifetime. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs pointed out late in 2012, Molina's prowess as a defensive wizard, along with a bat that has improved on a yearly basis, puts him among the most impressive catchers of all-time.
In 2013, the National League catching gap was narrowed due to a tremendous year from Pittsburgh's Russell Martin (19 DRS), but Molina's play was good enough to carry his reputation and garner another Gold Glove.
AL: James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay's stand out third baseman, knows a thing or two about infield defense and what it takes to save runs with his glove. In a conversation with Bill Chastain of MLB.com at the start of the postseason, he had this to say about teammate James Loney.
"He's probably the best [first baseman] I've played with as far as total package," Longoria said. "Carlos and Kotch, both great defenders, and both, obviously at times, showed how good of hitters they could be. But I think [Loney's] calming influence, the way he plays the game, the way he cares about the game, just everything in general, to take nothing away from those other guys, but he is probably the best total package I've played with over there at first."
Something tells me the voters will agree.
NL: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo's bat is what made Chicago fans so excited when he was acquired from San Diego in 2012, but it's his defense, particularity how much he cares about getting even better, that should now excite the fan base.
As Rizzo explained to ESPN Chicago in September, the five errors he committed this season (which isn't a big total) equaled five more than he was comfortable committing.
“It can get better,” Rizzo said of his defense. “I made a couple errors this year that have really ticked me off since they are such simple plays. That’s just the every-pitch focus. That’s the main thing I want to improve on. Every single pitch, be ready. You have to be ready like it’s the World Series and every pitch matters. … I have five errors, I want to have zero errors.”
AL: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
According to Fangraphs, no second baseman in the American League in 2013 came within 2.3 defensive wins as Dustin Pedroia's 13.3. While the 30-year-old helped lead the Red Sox to the World Series with a great season at the plate (.372 OBP), his defensive contributions should not be forgotten when assessing his game.
Since 2007, only Chase Utley and Mark Ellis have saved more runs at second base than Pedroia's 78. As second basemen age, their range and defensive ability quickly deteriorate, but the soon-to-be Gold Glove winner looks far from that stage of his career.
NL: Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs
Coming off his first career Gold Glove in 2013, Barney, at least in the eyes of his former manager, Dale Sveum, was deserving of another award this season.
During a conversation with Carrie Muskat of MLB.com in September, Sveum spoke of the Gold Glove contenders on his roster.
"[Darwin] Barney is the obvious choice," manager Dale Sveum said. "We've got some candidates and some very strong candidates. Barney's done nothing to give his away, that's for sure."
AL: Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
At first glance, Baltimore's J.J. Hardy is a safe choice for a second consecutive Gold Glove award, but Escobar flashed slightly more range and an equally strong arm during the 2013 season.
To be honest, it's not a great time for American League shortstops. The heyday of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter (never the greatest defender), Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada is long, long behind baseball fans. In a mediocre bunch, Escobar stood out above the crowd.
NL: Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
Is there any doubt?
As Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports illustrated in September, there's a precedent for calling Simmons' 2013 season the best defensive campaign in the history of the sport. Regardless of your chosen method to judge Simmons' greatness, he excelled in 2013.
With 41 DRS, the stats back up the claims of defensive genius, but the eye test may be even more breathtaking. On seemingly a nightly basis, Simmons shined, making plays few shortstops in the history of the game could duplicate.
Outside of Ozzie Smith and a young Alex Rodriguez, shortstops simply don't make the plays, both charging the ball, deep in the hole and up the middle, that Simmons did on a regular basis.
AL: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
The most amazing part of Machado's Gold Glove campaign isn't the highlight reel plays, outstanding throws or shortstop range at third base. No, Machado's biggest and best achievement of 2013 was making baseball fans forget about how many excellent, Gold Glove level third baseman populate the American League.
Unlike the dearth of star power at shortstop, a position Machado may move back to eventually, third base in the American League is overflowing with defensive standouts like Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria and Josh Donaldson.
Through a combination of defensive flair and genius, Machado lapped a star-studded field.
NL: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
As Patrick Sanders of The Denver Post pointed out in September, Arenado's claim to the National League Gold Glove would make history. As of right now, no rookie has ever won the Gold Glove at third base. While it's remarkable to think of Arenado's defensive season as that historic, his manager Walt Weiss couldn't think of a more worthy candidate.
"You hate to overstate things, but it's hard for me to remember a third baseman having a better year than Arenado's had defensively," Weiss said. "I don't think you can play any better than he has defensively. He's been stellar. He plays with no fear at a very difficult position."
AL: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
According to the metrics, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was the only American League left fielder to save double-digit runs in 2013. When breaking his game down without using statistics, his excellent range, underrated speed and a very, very strong throwing arm make him one of the best outfielders in the game.
When Gordon arrived in the major leagues as a young third baseman, few could have predicted a future of multiple Gold Gloves in the outfield, but Gordon is deserving of that status now.
NL: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
As the video above showed, Marte has an amazing ability to track down and get to balls that most left fielders in baseball simply can't. As John Dewan, the owner and president of Baseball Info Solutions, wrote about Marte in September for Bill James' website, Marte's range is center field worthy.
"Marte, on the other hand, is a center fielder masquerading as a left fielder. Nineteen of his 20 runs saved are attributable to his range."
The 25-year-old outfielder stole many balls that would have went for hits in most ballparks this season, but his Gold Glove victory won't be anything close to a steal over other candidates, it will be well deserved.
AL: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
According to Fangraphs, the American League center field Gold Glove race should be close between Kansas City's Lorenzo Cain, Texas' Leonys Martin and Ellsbury. As the 30-year-old Red Sox star completes another World Series, postseason run and possibly an excellent career in Boston, he'll take home the hardware of a second career Gold Glove.
While his arm isn't imposing, any center fielder than can display the speed and range of Ellsbury is an asset to outfield defense. In the coming months, expect his agent, Scott Boras, to market him as a five-tool star free agent capable of doing whatever it takes to win on a given night.
NL: Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez may be most known for his dust up with Braves catcher Brian McCann, breakout offensive season and former status as one of a group of New York Mets prospects that was sent to Minnesota for Johan Santana.
Yet, it's his amazing defense that stood out in 2013. According to Fangraphs, Gomez's defense was worth 26.5 runs to the Brewers, third best among all players in baseball.
Ryan Braun, when eligible to play, is the star attraction in Milwaukee, but Gomez has transformed into the Robin to Braun's Batman.
AL: Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox
When the Red Sox signed Victorino to a three-year, $39 million contract last offseason, eyebrows were raised around baseball. The idea of giving a former center fielder, now transitioning to a corner outfield spot in tricky Fenway Park, was odd.
One year later, it became one of the smartest and shrewdest moves made by any front office in baseball.
Boston correctly recognized that Victorino had plenty of good baseball left in his career and a move to right field would pay major dividends in saving runs for their pitching staff. No right fielder in the AL saved more runs than Victorino's 24.
NL: Gerardo Parra, Arizona Diamondbacks
If baseball was only about defense, Parra wouldn't just be a starter, he'd be an All-Star. Yet, as the 2013 season winded down, Parra's offense was still leaving questions open about his viability as an everyday player in Major League Baseball.
While equating DRS and WAR is still in it's infancy, offense is clearly easier to quantify for baseball fans. If a player hits .300 with power, he's valuable. But what about a player like Parra who found a way to post a 4.6 fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) despite posting a wRC+ of just 96?
If Parra's glove is good enough to net him more WAR than sluggers like Jose Bautista, Jay Bruce and Justin Upton, it's good enough for the award.
AL: R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
Move over Mark Buehrle. One of baseball's easiest annual Gold Glove choices has been replaced by a Toronto teammate. R.A. Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young winner, knuckleballer and author can add another chapter to his career story: Gold Glove winner.
With Buehrle's range in the field diminishing, Dickey has stepped up to become the best fielding pitcher in the American League.
NL: Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks
As John Dewan pointed out when discussing the 2013 Fielding Bible Awards, Arizona's Patrick Corbin led all pitchers in Major League Baseball with eight Defensive Runs Saved in 2013. His ability to field his position, and, as shown in the video above, control the running game, is invaluable to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke, both excellent defenders, could steal the popular vote, but Corbin, although far behind them as complete hurlers, was the most deserving of the award in 2013.
Agree? Disagree? Who would you vote for?
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