2015 Nominees Suggest More Influence from Advanced Stats
On Thursday, glove maker Rawlings announced its list of 2015 Golden Glove nominees, and two St. Louis Cardinals made the list. The stalwart, catcher Yadier Molina, and the repeat hopeful, rightfielder Jason Heyward. Every year, these awards spark conspiracy theories about the influence of offensive numbers. When Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt are in play, it’s bound to happen.
The conspiracists are wrong.
Here is the full list of nominees, which was posted on CBS Sports:
Should Jason Heyward resign, the Cardinals may have themselves a two-time Gold Glover on the field. Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Billy Hamilton, Reds
The numbers say human Web Gem
is the most deserving nominee for a 2015 Gold Glove Award. Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
At a glance, it looks as if only a few position players are defense-first performers. Hamilton, Kiermaier and Simmons. Escobar and Gregorious. Pillar, although he had a pretty good offensive year for the Blue Jays. On aggregate, the non-pitcher nominees hit .279 and averaged 19 homers, 29 doubles and 73 RBI in 2015.
This isn’t an overwhelming indictment that offense factors in. Nor does it suggest these players aren’t worthy defenders. In fact, a few advanced metrics indicate that Rawlings is getting this right.
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Take a look at FanGraph’s list of top defenders in terms of defensive runs saved and 17 of the top 20 are among the nominees. Kiermaier saved the Tampa Bay Rays an amazing 42 runs this year to lead the big leagues. How about Ultimate Zone Rating, a stat showing how much ground these guys can capably cover? According to FanGraphs, 15 of the top 20 are nominees. Not bad.
There are still lingering questions, like why none of the five best pitch framers in the game got a nod. Los Angeles Dodgers backstop Yasmani Grandal was the best framer in the business, according to Baseball Prospectus, earning his pitcher more than 180 extra strikes on the year. Yadier Molina, by the way, ranked 13th of 30 catchers with about 75 extra strikes in 2015.
Perhaps managing the running game trumps framing. Grandal had the highest stolen base percentage in baseball this year. Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, another non-nominee, was the second-best framer in 2015. But he ouldn’t throw anyone out this year, either.
Whatever. Baby steps.
The overwhelming takeaway from all this is that Kevin Kiermaier really deserves a Gold Glove Award. Not just because he can do this. He covers a ton of ground in centerfield and, in the process, saves his team more runs than any other player in the big leagues.