The Gold Glove finalists for the 2014 Major League Baseball season have officially been announced. There are always some surprises in this particular list because everyone has different ways of evaluating defense, but for the most part all the names in the field warrant consideration for the honor.
Here are the finalists at each position, as released by Rawlings Sports on Twitter:
|2014 Rawlings Gold Glove Finalists|
|Position||American League Finalists||National League Finalists|
|Pitcher||Mark Buehrle (Toronto Blue Jays), Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners), Dallas Keuchel (Houston Astros)||Zack Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers), Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers), Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)|
|Catcher||Alex Avila (Detroit Tigers), Yan Gomes (Cleveland Indians), Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals)||Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers), Russell Martin (Pittsburgh Pirates), Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)|
|First Base||Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers), Eric Hosmer (Kansas City Royals), Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels)||Adrian Gonzalez (Los Angeles Dodgers), Adam LaRoche (Washington Nationals), Justin Morneau (Colorado Rockies)|
|Second Base||Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners), Ian Kinsler (Detroit Tigers), Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox)||DJ LeMahieu (Colorado Rockies), Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds), Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies)|
|Third Base||Josh Donaldson (Oakland Athletics), Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers), Kyle Seager (Seattle Mariners)||Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies), Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco Giants), Juan Uribe (Los Angeles Dodgers)|
|Shortstop||J.J. Hardy (Baltimore Orioles), Alcides Escobar (Kansas City Royals), Alexei Ramirez (Chicago White Sox)||Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Reds), Adeiny Hechavarria (Miami Marlins), Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta Braves)|
|Left Field||Michael Brantley (Cleveland Indians), Yoenis Cespedes (Boston Red Sox), Alex Gordon (Kansas City Royals)||Starling Marte (Pittsburgh Pirates), Justin Upton (Atlanta Braves), Christian Yelich (Miami Marlins)|
|Center Field||Jackie Bradley Jr. (Boston Red Sox), Adam Eaton (Chicago White Sox), Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles)||Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds), Juan Lagares (New York Mets), Denard Span (Washington Nationals)|
|Right Field||Kole Calhoun (Los Angeles Angels), Kevin Kiermaier (Tampa Bay Rays), Nick Markakis (Baltimore Orioles)||Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves), Gerardo Parra (Arizona Diamondbacks), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)|
Now that the finalists have been announced, we can start speculating about who should and will win when the awards are handed out November 4.
Not surprisingly, the Kansas City Royals are all over the American League list of nominees. It is surprising, though, that only one of their outfielders, Alex Gordon, is up for a Gold Glove.
Dayn Perry of CBS Sports wrote in September that the Royals' "accomplished corps" in the outfield was much better than any other team's in 2014. As he noted, "StatCorner puts the Royals' outfield defense as being 53.2 runs better than average thus far in 2014. That's...substantial."
On the National League side, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons should get all the Gold Gloves for this play against the New York Mets:
In a fun bit of gamesmanship, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York noted that Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton may be in for a lot of disappointment during this award season:
Hamilton and Juan Lagares were both outstanding in center field this year, though FanGraphs' metrics showed that Lagares was more valuable with 28 defensive runs saved to Hamilton's 14, higher ultimate zone rating (UZR) per 150 games (25.3 to 21.7) and 15 more out-of-zone plays (92 to 77).
With offense taking a nosedive across Major League Baseball, the importance of fielding a good defensive team has taken on increased importance. If you can't score runs, the only other way to win games is by preventing them.
Think of all the analysis and stats out there in baseball. The one no one can seem to figure out is defense, because there's a subjective nature to the way things are set up. Official scorers can award a hit for a ball that falls between two defenders who get confused about which one will catch it.
In 2004, James Click of Baseball Prospectus wrote about the difficulty of evaluating defense because it's not held to the same importance that the strike zone is:
Rules 10.05.a-e discuss in detail what is to be considered a "base hit"—essentially any ball that could not be fielded with "ordinary effort," a phrase that is never defined or clarified. In any field, statistics are only valuable if they are consistent and accurately reflect the action on the field. Errors, especially recently, have become assigned in such an ad hoc fashion as to relegate the statistic to nearly unusable status.
Plus, as statistical analysis has grown in baseball, we have come to learn that errors are a very small fraction of what makes a player good or bad defensively. Metrics like ultimate zone rating, defensive runs saved and out-of-zone plays provide a deeper context for how good or bad someone is with the glove.
The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) has taken to posting Defensive Index rankings on its website. The rankings account for 25 percent of Gold Glove voting, so the last ones listed provide some context for which players may fare well.
Ultimately, all voters have their own criteria for what they decide. Some players will be celebrated for winning a Gold Glove, others will be derided and a lot will fall in the in-between category.
It's baseball analysis in a nutshell.
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