2013 Gold Gloves, part 3: Hindsight, '08 - '12

Yadier Molina won a Gold Glove in each season from 2008-2012 - Ronald Martinez

2002 was the first year that UZR data was made available. Were the years prior to 2013 as backwards as many believe?

Part One

Part Two

In this, the third part of our look at the legitimacy of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, we'll collect data on the second half of the years of recent history where advanced defensive metrics were available. To save space, I won't repeat the same section about methodology here; see part two if you need a refresher on that.

2008 Gold Glove Awards

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Winners who:
ranked 1st in a metric: 5-of-18 (28%)
ranked 1st in both metrics: 2-of-14 (14%)
ranked top three in both metrics: 7-of-14 (50%)

ranked 1st in a metric and below top three in OPS: 3-of-4 (75%)
ranked 1st in a metric and below top five in OPS: 1-of-4 (25%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top three in OPS: 5-of-7 (71%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top five in OPS: 3-of-7 (43%)

rated below-average in a metric: 6-of-18 (33%)
rated below-average in both metrics: 3-of-14 (21%)
rated below-average in a metric and top three in OPS: 4-of-6 (67%)
rated below-average in both metrics and top three in OPS: 2-of-3 (67%)

Torii Hunter continues to win despite obvious decline. Nate McLouth is an interesting case; 2008, as many of you may remember, was the season he came out of nowhere, leading the NL in doubles while posting a 20-20 season in homers and steals, being selected to the All-Star team and winning a Gold Glove. The metrics say he shouldn't have won, that he was, in fact, not even close, but he had such a nice season otherwise, and there was pretty big hype surrounding him. And Chase Utley continues to get jobbed; what's the explanation behind him not winning? He was both a top, if not the top, defender at 2B for years, while also being the clear top offensive performer at the position, and yet he's never won a single Gold Glove. He has four Silver Sluggers to his name, and if offense were really the measuring stick, he should have at least a couple Gold Gloves as well, right...?

2009 Gold Glove Awards

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Winners who:
ranked 1st in a metric: 7-of-18 (39%)
ranked 1st in both metrics: 1-of-14 (7%)
ranked top three in both metrics: 6-of-14 (43%)

ranked 1st in a metric and below top three in OPS: 4-of-6 (67%)
ranked 1st in a metric and below top five in OPS: 2-of-6 (33%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top three in OPS: 4-of-6 (67%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top five in OPS: 2-of-6 (33%)

rated below-average in a metric: 6-of-18 (33%)
rated below-average in both metrics: 1-of-14 (7%)
rated below-average in a metric and top three in OPS: 3-of-6 (50%)
rated below-average in both metrics and top three in OPS: 1-of-1 (100%)

This is the eighth straight season that we've looked at in which 33% or fewer of all winners ranked as a below-average defender according to at least one metric, and during that span, at no point has more than 21% of the winners ranked below average in both metrics. Not nearly as many butchers winning based on their bats as was expected.

2010 Gold Glove Awards

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Winners who:
ranked 1st in a metric: 6-of-18 (33%)
ranked 1st in both metrics: 1-of-14 (7%)
ranked top three in both metrics: 6-of-14 (43%)

ranked 1st in a metric and below top three in OPS: 2-of-5 (40%)
ranked 1st in a metric and below top five in OPS: 2-of-5 (40%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top three in OPS: 3-of-6 (50%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top five in OPS: 3-of-6 (50%)

rated below-average in a metric: 5-of-18 (28%)
rated below-average in both metrics: 2-of-14 (14%)
rated below-average in a metric and top three in OPS: 3-of-5 (60%)
rated below-average in both metrics and top three in OPS: 2-of-2 (100%)

Take a look at Franklin Gutierrez; he won this year despite finishing out of the top three in both metrics, but in the year previous, he was passed over despite leading AL center fielders in both metrics. We also have Troy Tulowitzki, who you could have made a strong argument for over Jimmy Rollins the previous season, winning in 2010 despite a clearly better choice as far as the metrics go. Could it be that going unnoticed previously caused enough of a stir that they were more on the voters' minds the next season?

2011 Gold Glove Awards

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Winners who:
ranked 1st in a metric: 8-of-18 (44%)
ranked 1st in both metrics: 2-of-14 (14%)
ranked top three in both metrics: 9-of-14 (64%)

ranked 1st in a metric and below top three in OPS: 1-of-7 (14%)
ranked 1st in a metric and below top five in OPS: 1-of-7 (14%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top three in OPS: 2-of-9 (22%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top five in OPS: 2-of-9 (22%)

rated below-average in a metric: 4-of-18 (22%)
rated below-average in both metrics: 1-of-14 (7%)
rated below-average in a metric and top three in OPS: 2-of-4 (50%)
rated below-average in both metrics and top three in OPS: 1-of-1 (100%)

Something of note is that 2011 was the first year in which it was required to elect one outfielder of each individual position, rather than just the three best guys irrespective of time spent in left, center and right field.

The third base award in the NL is of particular note; Pablo Sandoval and Placido Polanco are close enough in the metrics to not raise a fuss about, but Sandoval is the much better offensive performer and played for the reigning World Series champion Giants. Yet, despite that, Polanco was the selection. Sandoval, of course, has had the reputation of being too large for the position, and his battles with weight have been very public. In other words, despite being good enough by the metrics, and good enough if offensive production were being considered, he did not win.

2012 Gold Glove Awards

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Winners who:
ranked 1st in a metric: 9-of-19 (47%)
ranked 1st in both metrics: 5-of-14 (36%)
ranked top three in both metrics: 9-of-14 (64%)

ranked 1st in a metric and below top three in OPS: 5-of-8 (63%)
ranked 1st in a metric and below top five in OPS: 5-of-8 (63%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top three in OPS: 6-of-9 (67%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top five in OPS: 6-of-9 (67%)

rated below-average in a metric: 5-of-19 (26%)
rated below-average in both metrics: 3-of-14 (21%)
rated below-average in a metric and top three in OPS: 3-of-5 (60%)
rated below-average in both metrics and top three in OPS: 2-of-3 (67%)

Notice a huge jump in the percentage of winners ranking first in both metrics; all previous years ranged from 7-14%. Adam LaRoche won, despite being worse offensively and slightly worse defensively compared to Joey Votto. This was the year for the Cinderella story Nationals though, remember? Interesting.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of part two, we saw that there had been 109 total awards given out during the span of 2002 through 2007, and that 78% of them had been won by players who had/have won multiple Gold Gloves in their careers. From 2008 through 2012, we saw 91 awards thanks to the tie for the 2012 AL pitcher award. Of those 91, 69 were given to players who are multiple time winners in their careers. That's 76%, only slightly less than it was from 2002-2007. In total, from 2002 through 2012, 154 of the 200 Gold Glove awards doled out were to multiple time winners, or 77% total.

Let's take a final, combined total here, just to see what we have over a large sample:

2002 - 2012 Gold Glove Awards

Winners who:
ranked 1st in a metric: 66-of-195 (34%)
ranked 1st in both metrics: 19-of-140 (14%)
ranked top three in both metrics: 70-of-140 (50%)

ranked 1st in a metric and below top three in OPS: 30-of-55 (55%)
ranked 1st in a metric and below top five in OPS: 23-of-55 (42%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top three in OPS: 42-of-70 (60%)
ranked top three in both metrics and below top five in OPS: 33-of-70 (47%)

rated below-average in a metric: 56-of-195 (29%)
rated below-average in both metrics: 19-of-140 (14%)
rated below-average in a metric and top three in OPS: 27-of-56 (48%)
rated below-average in both metrics and top three in OPS: 10-of-19 (53%)

Thinking about the accusation that offensive performance plays more of a role in selection than actual defensive worth, I see a few points of note immediately when looking at the totals. Perhaps most notably, fewer than 30% of all winners rated below average in either of the two metrics. This means that 71% of all winners do cannot be qualified as defensively-inept butchers who won solely because of their bats. And, even of those who did rate as below-average, less than half even ranked as one of top three offensive performers at their position that year; in other words, something besides offensive performance caused those players to be thought of by the voters as being worthy of the award.

Remember, even as advanced as they are, defensive metrics still carry a degree of uncertainty and can be problematic; we saw numerous examples throughout our look from 2002 through 2013 in which a player was ranked well in one and not the other, including some times when they may have been best in the league in one metric and below-average in the other. Considering that uncertainty, how many winners rated in the top three in the league in at least one metric? 134 out of 195 total awards, or 69%. Nearly 70% of all winners were thought to be one of the top defensive performers at their position in a given year by at least one of the metrics. That's a pretty strong number, and one you might not expect if you believe that defensive performance has historically not been rewarded.

In the fourth and final part of this series, we'll gather all the data in more complete, meaningful ways, look at it more in-depth, draw some comparisons between 2002-2012 and the first year, 2013, when new defensive metrics were used, and see if we can draw any conclusions about the voting process and the worthiness of the Gold Glove Award.

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