Friday, October 14, 2011

Changing of the Glove

Well, that really shouldn’t be the title, although it’s appropriate for this discussion on who should win the Gold Gloves of 2011, who will, and where the fielding prowess in the National and American Leagues have shifted.  We really think this is the year Derek Jeter won’t win one.  The hubbub that went on last year when Derek won another, while many think he’s not a good shortstop at all.  (We’re not one of those, just don’t think he’s a Gold Glove candidate with a Range Factor that low.)  But let's get going with the discussion, and start first with Jeter's position, shortstop.

Shortstop -

Who Should Win, J.J. Hardy (AL); Troy Tulowitski (NL)
Who Will Win, Alexei Ramirez (AL), Troy Tulowitski (NL)

The amount of good shortstops in the American League has risen in the past several years, so much so, that fielders like Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox might not be the best, although we think he might just win the 2011 prize, and folks like J.J. Hardy of the Orioles or Alcides Escobar of the Royals probably should.  It’s funny, but I don’t think people in Milwaukee thought of Hardy as quite this good in the field, but with a fielding percentage of 0.990 and range nearing 5.00 (actually 4.88 A+PO per 9 IP), that’s a deserving combination.  For those not too versed in what a great range factor for a shortstop is, there’s few who reach that 5.00 number.  This year only Tulowitski reached it for players with over 1,000 innings played.  And we do think this year Troy Tulowitski wins another.

Outfield

Who Should Win:  Franklin Gutierrez, Nick Markakis, Jacoby Ellsbury (AL); Chris Young, Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn (NL)
Who Will Win: Jacoby Ellsbury, Franklin Gutierrez, Austin Jackson (AL); Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs (NL)

 This is where we are starting to see a changing of the guard, although it might take a few years for the voters to shake it out in this direction.  In the National League, Shane Victorino will probably win his third, although he might have been passed by folks like Drew Stubbs and Chris Young.  Michael Bourn deserves another, so no changing of the guard there.  In the American League, we think the propensity to reward centerfielders will mean Austin Jackson and Jacoby Ellsbury and not Nick Markakis, but it is hard for a right fielder to rise up to the #2 spot in the Field Value ratings, all the way to 1.66.  (Only Ellsbury was higher at 1.70)  Markakis was durable, sure handed, and threw runners out, all with a range factor above 2.  However, that's low compared to his counterparts in centerfield, so we think that will count against him.  It never counted against Ichiro, but this year, we think he won't win one.  Of course, we didn't think he'd win won last year, and Gold Glove voters are notorious for rewarding history of good play and not the particular year in question.


Catcher
Who Should Win: Alex Avila (AL); Jonathan Lucroy (NL)
Who Will Win: Alex Avila (AL); Yadier Molina (NL)

Yadier Molina will likely win another Gold Glove, but catchers like Jonathan Lucroy should get that honor this year.  But he's too new on the block to overcome Molina.  Alex Avila is turning into one good catcher/baseball player and his prowess with the bat might just overshadow his ability behind the plate just enough to keep him from a Gold Glove, but he would be deserving and just might have enough attention on that bat to keep him in mind for the glove.

First Base
Who Should Win: Joey Votto (NL); Casey Kotchman (AL)
Who Will Win: Joey Votto (NL); Mark Teixeira (AL)

We're likely wrong about Votto winning this award over Pujols, with the conventional wisdom that Pujols is not only the best hitter in the league, but the best fielder, too.  In the American League, Teixeira was a fine fielder again in 2011 and would be a deserved recipient of the award.  Field Value rewards it to Kotchman, however, by a slim margin.

Second Base
Who Should Win: Robinson Cano (AL); Mark Ellis (NL)
Who Will Win: Robinson Cano (AL); Brandon Phillips (NL)

It will be a consensus pick when Cano again wins the award for the Yanks, and Ellis split time between both leagues, which will likely keep his vote totals below that of last year's winner, Brandon Phillips.

Third Base
Who Should Win: Evan Longoria (AL); Placido Polanco (NL)
Who Will Win: Evan Longoria (AL); Placido Polanco (NL)

Polanco did not win in 2010 in his first year at the position, losing out to Scott Rolen, but with Rolen's lack of playing time and Polanco's repeat of a very good fielding season despite his injuries, we think Placido deserves to, and will win, the award in 2011.  Evan Longoria won last year and will win it again.

For more info on the Field Value rankings and ratings, go to http://baseballevaluation.com/playergrades/fieldvalue.html.