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Metrics shed light on Jeter, Gold Gloves

11/11/2010

Below is a look at some notable winners from the 2010 Rawlings American League Gold Glove voting. While analysis of fielding remains behind similar evaluations of pitching and hitting, there can be no disputing that some of the voting results and advanced fielding metrics are at odds.

Perhaps the most interesting result was that, whether you look at Baseball Info Solutions plus-minus or Fangraphs.com’s Ultimate Zone Rating, not a single player who ranked first in his respective position finished first in the Gold Glove voting. That’s not to say that several high-quality performers weren’t recognized, but that the elite defenders at each position by advanced metrics were shut out across the board.

Worst Plus-Minus Among Qualified Shortstops, 2010 Season (Min. 400 Innings)

Worst UZR/150 Among Qualified Shortstops, 2010 Season

SS Derek Jeter

The yearly debate continues. The New York Yankees Derek Jeter received his fifth career Gold Glove award this season, and, according to Baseball Info Solutions, it’s nearly indefensible. According BIS, Jeter’s plus-minus was -13 in 2010, the second worst among all shortstops. In the same vein, Jeter had 33 defensive misplays, second most among AL shortstops to the Los Angeles Angels Erick Aybar. By another metric, UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games), Jeter also failed to hold up, coming in as the third-worst at the position, ahead of only Kansas City Royals Yuniesky Betancourt and the Tampa Bay Rays Jason Bartlett.

What’s equally interesting is that Jeter ranked first among shortstops in fielding percentage at .989 (among those with at least 500 innings), thanks to only six errors. This suggests that the voters are looking at only one aspect of fielding (errors), while ignoring equally important aspects such as range. As the advanced metrics suggest, it’s not Jeter’s ability to field balls he gets to that’s the issue, but rather his ability to get to balls in general.

OF Carl Crawford and 3B Evan Longoria

The two winners from the Tampa Bay Rays represent arguably the strongest choices in the AL. Crawford has long been one of the best left fielders in the game and was rewarded in 2010. He ranked second among all AL left fielders in plus-minus at +12, while also ranking second among outfielders in UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games). Longoria also holds up well under these metrics, ranking third among AL third basemen in plus-minus at +13, first in Good Fielding Plays with 60 and, in terms of spectacular plays, ranked first among third basemen in Web Gems points this season.

OF Franklin Gutierrez

Gutierrez’s selection is noteworthy because it arguably comes a year too late. Gutierrez was the most dynamic defender in baseball last season according to UZR/150, leading all of baseball with a +28.9 mark. In 2010, however, that fell back to +6.8, still quite good but just seventh overall among outfielders. Gutierrez and Seattle Mariners teammate Ichiro Suzuki (also a winner) tied for the MLB lead with three home run-saving catches, while Gutierrez also had the most Web Gem points among AL outfielders. So while Gutierrez was not the best outfielder this season, or even one of the top three, the voters probably took a year to catch up to his fielding excellence.