Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Gold Glove results mixed, as usual
I have to get this out of the way ... Yes, Derek Jeter has just won another Gold Glove.
It's his fifth, which means he's now won at least four more Gold Gloves than he's deserved. By any stretch of the fever-crazed imagination.
Just to give you an idea ... Every year, John Dewan and Baseball Info Solutions conduct their own process, the Fielding Bible Awards. There are 10 "voters" (with two of the individual voters actually amalgams, of video scouts and fans). Some of the voters are looking at the same Baseball Info Solutions numbers; I do, and I suspect that John Dewan does. But Peter Gammons votes, and he's got his own sources. Bill James votes, and he's got his own universe. Hal Richman votes, and he's got his own institution. Et cetera.
Derek Jeter won another Gold Glove, but it doesn't appear to be based on his defensive play.
The voting doesn't differentiate the leagues. Each voter is required to rank 10 shortstops. This year, 20 shortstops received at least one point in the voting.
Jeter wasn't one of them. Not a single voter thought that Jeter was even the 10th-best shortstop in the major leagues.
Of course, it's not just us. Nobody who really follows baseball believes that Jeter is an outstanding defensive player. The Yankees, who see him every day, don't believe that. The writers who cover the Yankees every day don't believe that. Frankly, I'm not sure the managers and the coaches who actually voted for Jeter believe that.
I think they keep giving him the award as a gesture of respect. In a different sort of society, they might simply bow in his presence, then kiss one of his World Series rings. Or cross themselves whenever Game 3 of the Yankees' 2001 Division Series is mentioned. Instead they somewhat mindlessly give him their Gold Glove support every year, even as everyone who's actually paying attention knows the Yankees would prevent more runs if almost anyone else were playing shortstop.
At best, it's an idiosyncratic choice. At worst, it's just another reminder that the men tasked with this award -- which many people consider serious business -- don't take it seriously. But then, we already knew, didn't we?
Of course, Jeter isn't the only beneficiary of the Yankee halo; Mark Teixeira wins his fourth Gold Glove (and second as a Yankee), Robinson Cano his first.
I will happily admit that I don't really get Teixeira. Maybe he's one of those players you really do have to "see every day" to appreciate. The numbers that we've got for him are not impressive. I didn't rank him among the 10 best first basemen in the majors, and neither did Peter Gammons. But Bill James had him No. 1, and so did Hal Richman. I voted for Daric Barton, and maybe 1) Barton's really as good as his numbers, and 2) his reputation will eventually catch up with those numbers. Teixeira figures to keep winning them for a while, though.
Meanwhile, Cano's not a bad choice. It's just not clear that he's a better choice than Mark Ellis or Orlando Hudson. And I think it's a bit of a shame that Ellis, who's been a Gold Glove-quality second baseman for nearly a decade, still hasn't won the award and almost certainly never will. If only he had Robinson Cano's bat ...
Speaking of which, it's hard to think that Joe Mauer's bat didn't help him win his third straight Gold Glove. Well, that and the awesome power of Gold Glove incumbency. Mauer's still the same catcher he's always been. But he started only 107 games behind the plate this year -- fifth among American League catchers -- and threw out only 21 percent of larcenous enemy baserunners. I voted for Kurt Suzuki, but catcher defense is a slippery thing and I can't really argue against Mauer.
Rawlings doesn't release the complete results, which is a shame because I would love to see how close Adrian Beltre came to Evan Longoria at third base. I would have voted for Beltre, but in the American League it was really those two guys and a bunch of afterthoughts.
The results in the outfield serve as a nearly perfect indictment of the voters, who went for one perennial winner (Ichiro Suzuki) and two players (Carl Crawford and Franklin Gutierrez) who probably should have won last year but didn't.
At least Gutierrez and Crawford did play really well again this year. But this year's Gutierrez is Brett Gardner, who played so brilliantly in left field that he probably should have gotten the Gold Glove that went to Crawford if the voters really wanted to reward a left fielder. And in all honesty, doesn't everybody think that Gardner would make an excellent center fielder as well? And does anyone think the same about Crawford at this point? Crawford doesn't play center field because the Rays think B.J. Upton is better. Gardner doesn't play center field because the Yankees don't want to mess with Curtis Granderson.
Of course, sometimes just voting for the same guy every year gets it right, and that's the case with Ichiro. Yes, his batting averages go up and down every season: .372 one year, .303 the next; .351 one year, .310 the next; .352 one year, .315 the next.
But have Ichiro's skills changed from season to season, or just his luck? When Ichiro arrived 10 years ago, he was 27 years old, and a champion singles-hitter, baserunner, and defensive outfielder. Ichiro's 37 now, but has anything changed? He's still a brilliant singles-hitter, he still steals 35 or 40 bases every season, and he still posts stellar fielding statistics in right field every season.
One of these years, the voters in their infinite wisdom are going to give Ichiro Suzuki a Gold Glove that he obviously doesn't deserve. But it hasn't happened yet. And now he's got 10 of them.
Oh, one more thing: Mark Buehrle's awesome. He picked off 11 guys this year. Another win for the infinitely wise voters.