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Friday, March 8, 2013
Gold Glove Awards to get a little smarter

By David Schoenfield

Rawlings, the sponsor of the Gold Glove Awards, announced today at the SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix that the awards will be adding sabermetric component this year -- a committee of smart people will develop a new proprietary defensive measurement called the SABR Defensive Index, or SDI. We need another defensive metric like we need another version of WAR, but this sounds like a step in the right direction.

From the news release:
The SDI will serve as an "apples-to-apples" metric to help determine the best defensive players in baseball exclusively for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and Rawlings Platinum Glove Award selection processes. The collaboration also installs SABR as the presenting sponsor of the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award.

OK, can we go back and take away Rafael Palmeiro's Gold Glove from 1999, the year he played just 28 games at first base?

Managers and coaches have voted on the awards -- and they still will. The release says the managers/coaches vote will still comprise the majority of the tally; once the SDI is created this summer, Rawlings will announce the exact breakdown.

Will the results improve? For the most part, the voters' choice do align pretty well with the defensive metrics. Palmeiro winning was obviously the nadir as the voters didn't even realize he didn't play much in the field that year. But there have also been questionable winners like Derek Jeter in 2004 (-13 Defensive Runs Saved), Derek Jeter in 2005 (-27 Defensive Runs Saved), Derek Jeter in 2006 (-16 Defensive Runs Saved), Derek Jeter in 2009 (+3) and Derek Jeter in 2010 (-9).

Yep, Jeter has more Gold Glove Awards than Adrian Beltre.

To be fair, the voters have also awarded guys like Darwin Barney and Gerardo Parra the past couple of seasons, players who didn't win because they could hit. But with rare exceptions like Jeter or Adam Jones, the metrics usually support the players commonly regarded as excellent fielders.

I'm sure there are some out there suggesting this is just more evidence the nerds are taking over and that baseball is soon going to go the way of boxing, horse racing and Niagara Falls barrel jumping. What does a spreadsheet know about defense compared to major league managers and coaches?

In my opinion, quite a bit.