The St. Louis Cardinals’ defense in 2019 was a huge strength. This is finally being recognized as six players were nominated for Gold Gloves. Who was it?
Fans mostly know that winning Gold Glove awards after the end of the season is more of a pat on the shoulder for a player’s year than something to be angry over. The St. Louis Cardinals found that out first-hand last year as Kolten Wong was not recognized with a Gold Glove at second base despite his defensive numbers being the best at the position.
We all knew how good Wong was and it caused a bit of a public outcry until people realized that it didn’t really matter. But, recognition is always at least a little nice and after the Cardinals were the 3rd best defensive team in 2019 by many metrics (DRS, UZR, Def), they have set themselves up to be in more Gold Glove conversations than they were last year.
As of Thursday, the Gold Glove finalists were announced, giving fans the top three players defensively at each position in each league and unsurprisingly, six different Cardinals are finalists to win a Gold Glove. What are their chances?
Paul Goldschmidt, First Base
Paul Goldschmidt’s first offensive season with the Cardinals may not have been what fans expected, but his defense certainly was. Goldschmidt’s effect was much more of what fans didn’t see than what they did.
It could be a low throw he dugout, or a high throw he stretched for, or even just the way he sets up as a target, but Goldy’s defense at first base elevated the play of the entire infield. All year he saved errors of other fielders and made great plays himself, leading to being tied for fourth among NL first baseman in DRS with 4, second in UZR with 2.5, and second with a 4.3 ErrR.
Goldy has won three Gold Gloves in his career and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do it again.
Kolten Wong, Second Base
After his snub last year, Wong came out and put up very similar defensive numbers in 2019 while raising his offense. While offense shouldn’t have a play in Gold Glove voting, it certainly does at least to some extent.
Wong put up 14 DRS in 2019 which is first in the NL by 8 DRS. He also leads by a 2.0 margin in UZR with a UZR of 5.2. There aren’t many defensive categories Wong doesn’t lead in and I would expect him to be the clear leader to win the Gold Glove for the first time in his career.
Jack Flaherty, Starting Pitcher
The Gold Glove for pitchers is always interesting as defending this position is different than any other. To be honest I’m not sure how they decide who makes the final three for pitchers as Flaherty isn’t near the top in DRS, but didn’t make any errors so I’m not sure how to break this down. If Flaherty does end up winning, then I guess good for him?
Paul DeJong, Shortstop
Paul DeJong slumped with the bat for the majority of the second half, but his defense didn’t. Continuing to maximize his potential, DeJong just keeps getting better and better on both sides of the ball after being projected just a backup infielder, he is an All-Star and could very well win the Gold Glove.
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DeJong led all NL shortstops in UZR at 11.4 and was fourth with 14 DRS. For a shortstop, that zone rating is so key due to how much room they have to cover in the infield. DeJong also had an ErrR value of 7.3 which again led the league.
He may not make many web gem plays, but with the best range and lowest error rate in the NL, that adds up to a stellar shortstop. This is not what the Cardinals believed they were getting in DeJong but they will certainly applaud him for putting in the work to not only stick at shortstop but even be in the conversation for Gold Glove.
Harrison Bader, Center Field
Bader had an awful year at the plate after a serviceable year last year. In the field, he just got better and better though. Tied with the league lead with four 5-star catches all year, Bader led the league by 5.9 with a UZR of 12.9 and while his 13 DRS is third in the league, the mix of his arm strength (he had an ARM rating of 4.3 which led the league), his range, and big catch abilities, he is the best of the best in center.
The only thing that will keep Bader from winning this award will be his offense. As wrong as that is, the voters might see the better year that Lorenzo Cain had and pick him instead.
Yadier Molina, Catcher
We all love Yadier Molina, but if I’m honest, this was probably a legacy pick more than a true option for the Gold Glove. Molina was still a positive defender in 2019, but his age is unsurprisingly shining through.
Ranked 15th with a +2 DRS, 14th in framing, and with a 27% caught stealing percentage (1% above league average), he certainly wasn’t among the best of the best of defensive catchers. Now Molina still is a fantastic game manager and leader, but those characteristics shouldn’t win you the Gold Glove.
Do Gold Glove awards really matter? No, but it is a testament to how good the Cardinals defense was in 2019. Looking at the finalists against the Cardinals, I would guess that Wong, DeJong, and Bader would win. All would be their first of their careers and a testament to how good the Cardinals are up the middle. Voting doesn’t happen until after the World Series though so there won’t be any results soon.