The 2014 National League Gold Glove Awards, Strictly by the Numbers by August Fagerstrom October 27, 2014 If you missed the American League edition of this post from Friday, you can check it out right here. I’m not going to bog this section down with a bunch of new words, I’d rather just get right into it. But first, if you want to gloss over the methodology really quick, I’ll re-publish it from Friday’s post: First, our player pool. For catchers and infielders, I’m simply going with qualified batters. This is pretty standard. For outfielders, I’ve lowered the innings threshold to 600 innings, because outfielders move around more than infielders, and I don’t think an everyday outfielder should be discounted because he had to split his time between left field and center field. Now, for the numbers. We’ve got Defensive Runs Saved and we’ve got Ultimate Zone Rating. Neither are perfect, and sometimes they disagree with each other, but when put together, I think we can all agree they do a pretty good job. I’ve prorated each to 1,000 innings and simply used a 50/50 split to determine each player’s total defensive value, per 1000 innings (tDEF/1000). In the tables, I’ve also decided to include each player’s Revised Zone Rating and Fielding Percentage, just because. Catchers, as we know, are a whole other beast. We’ve got three main components of catcher defense that we can measure: controlling the running game, blocking pitches and receiving pitches. Only two of them are included in the advanced defensive metrics we use, and the one we’re leaving out (receiving) appears to be the most important skill. To make up for that, I simply added up the run values of each of these three components, using StatCorner’s catcher framing report for my framing numbers. Some people don’t agree with how much weight is given to catchers in framing data, and I kind of agree with that, but as the National League results will show, the top spot doesn’t simply go to the best framer. Catcher – Jonathan Lucroy Inn tDEF/1000 rSB/1000 RPP/1000 FRM/1000 Jonathan Lucroy 1121.0 24.1 -0.8 6.3 18.7 Russell Martin 1082.0 19.8 6.4 1.0 12.4 Buster Posey 971.0 17.8 -2.2 0.9 19.1 Seems like for years now, the posterchild for the importance of catcher defense has been Yadier Molina. Deservedly so, he’s great. But I’d like to submit that we change that to Jonathan Lucroy. Over the last five years, using the criteria above, Molina has been worth 20.8 runs per 1,000 innings. In other words, his defense has been valued at about +2 WAR per season. Lucroy, on the other hand, has been worth 31.9 runs per 1,000 innings. In other words, Lucroy’s defensive value has been estimated to be a full win greater, per year, than Molina. Averaging +3 defensive WAR over five consecutive seasons is amazing. Jonathan Lucroy is amazing. Also, it’s worth pointing out that Martin, Posey and still Molina, are all fantastic, too. The NL has a special collection of catchers. Biggest offenders: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (-29.9), Welington Castillo (-18.4), Devin Mesoraco (-9.3). First Base – Adrian Gonzalez Inn tDEF/1000 UZR/1000 DRS/1000 RZR FP% Adrian Gonzalez 1325.1 6.6 4.2 9.1 .830 .995 Justin Morneau 1105.2 6.5 5.7 7.2 .845 .997 Anthony Rizzo 1259.0 5.2 5.6 4.8 .828 .993 Gonzalez has long had a reputation as a slick-fielding first baseman, but he’s gone without a Gold Glove since 2011. This could be the year that changes, though Justin Morneau has a strong case for his first win as well. The MLB agreed with me on two of its three selections, though Adam LaRoche over Anthony Rizzo is an odd choice, as he actually graded out as one of the worst defensive first basemen in the National League, due to his league-worst range score. Biggest offenders: Ryan Howard (-5.3), Garrett Jones (-3.5), Adam LaRoche (-2.1). Second Base – DJ LeMahieu Inn tDEF/1000 UZR/1000 DRS/1000 RZR FP% DJ LeMahieu 1179.2 11.3 9.1 13.6 .826 .991 Brandon Phillips 1054.1 6.7 7.7 5.7 .793 .996 Chase Utley 1321.2 4.2 6.2 2.3 .853 .985 Yay! Out of the 18 positions between the American League and National League, this is the only one all three players are the same as the actual finalists. However, I have a suspicion it will go to either Phillips or Utley when it should probably go to LeMahieu. I’d like to make a comparison. We all know about Darwin Barney and how he’s an amazing defender. It’s basically the only reason he’d had a job for several years. LeMahieu, over 2,500 innings, has a +12 tDEF/1000. Barney, over 4,200 innings, has a +11 tDEF/1000. Barney has a career 70 wRC+. LeMahieu has a career 69 wRC+. They are basically the exact same player, which says a lot about LeMahieu’s defense, but also a lot about his bat. An interesting case also appears below, as Aaron Hill was the worst second baseman by the advanced metrics, but also converted difficult plays better than any defender in baseball, according to Inside Edge data. Biggest offenders: Aaron Hill (-7.1), Daniel Murphy (-6.8), Jedd Gyorko (-5.7). Third Base – Chase Headley Inn tDEF/1000 UZR/1000 DRS/1000 RZR FP% Chase Headley 1082.2 15.7 19.3 12.5 .769 .982 Nolan Arenado 967.0 11.4 6.2 16.5 .751 .959 Anthony Rendon 1148.2 7.1 3.7 10.5 .683 .958 This was a bit of an oversight on my part. When I compiled the leaderboards for this study, I split them up by filtering “American League” and “National League” in our leaderboards. Headley appeared in neither, because he played in both leagues this year. Maybe this should have gone in the AL, where he finished his season, but he also played more innings in the NL, therefore creating more defensive value in the NL, so I feel fine with either one. Headley didn’t hit much this year, but thanks to his defense, he was a still a +4 WAR player. This makes Headley an interesting case to watch as a free agent this offseason. Worst offenders: Luis Valbuena (-7.1), Chris Johnson (-6.3), Cody Asche (-5.1). Shortstop – Andrelton Simmons Inn tDEF/1000 UZR/1000 DRS/1000 RZR FP% Andrelton Simmons 1277.0 17.0 12.1 21.9 .795 .978 Zack Cozart 1274.1 12.2 9.5 14.9 .848 .984 Jhonny Peralta 1325.1 10.9 9.1 12.8 .817 .981 Andrelton Simmons. Andrelton Simmons wins. Andrelton Simmons always wins. Biggest offenders: Hanley Ramirez (-10.5), Adeiny Hechavarria (-4.6), Starlin Castro (-4.5). Left Field – Christian Yelich Inn tDEF/1000 UZR/1000 DRS/1000 RZR FP% Christian Yelich 1182.0 10.9 10.8 11.0 .938 .996 Starling Marte 943.2 6.1 1.6 10.6 .844 .969 Khris Davis 1156.1 3.5 2.7 4.3 .904 .988 Left field in the National League was pretty weak this year. Yelich and Marte are both good choices by the MLB, but they also recognized Justin Upton, a selection that caught a lot of flak. The numbers don’t think Upton was quite as bad as he’s been made out to be, but it’s clear Yelich and Marte are in a class of their own. Both have great speed which leads to excellent range, though Yelich’s weak arm may keep him from being the perennial Gold Glove candidate that Marte is. Nevertheless, this year appears to be Yelich’s, as the numbers across the board favor the Marlins outfielder. Biggest offenders: Chris Coghlan (-8.6), Domonic Brown (-8.4), Ryan Ludwick (-7.2). Center Field – Juan Lagares Inn tDEF/1000 UZR/1000 DRS/1000 RZR FP% Juan Lagares 945.0 24.7 19.7 29.6 .922 .984 Ender Inciarte 649.1 22.1 21.1 23.1 .903 .990 Billy Hamilton 1199.1 14.2 16.8 11.7 .950 .994 Last year, Jeff Sullivan wrote one of my favorite posts on this site, regarding Juan Lagares and his arm. Lagares is a former infielder, and he takes routes to ground balls in the outfield unlike many I’ve ever seen, putting him in great position to make throws. He basically plays center field like a shortstop, and it’s incredible to watch. Lagares’ ARM score last year was one of the best in recent history. Lagares’ ARM score this year was just good – not great – and he still posted the highest tDEF/1000 of any player in major league baseball, because he also showcased excellent range and an ability to prevent errors. Comparing the two is apples and oranges, but Lagares may very well challenge Andrelton Simmons for the best defensive player in baseball, and it will be a shame if he doesn’t come home with the actual Gold Glove Award. Biggest offenders: Ben Revere (-10.2), Andrew McCutchen (-8.5), Angel Pagan (-6.9). Right Field – Jason Heyward Inn tDEF/1000 UZR/1000 DRS/1000 RZR FP% Jason Heyward 1317.0 21.3 18.3 24.1 .917 .997 Nate Schierholtz 733.1 9.1 7.2 10.9 .911 1.000 Marlon Byrd 1337.1 3.7 2.8 4.5 .912 .982 For as much attention as Andrelton Simmons receives as an elite defender on the Braves, Jason Heyward is right there with him. Since Heyward entered the league in 2010, no outfielder is within even 10 runs of DRS or UZR of Heyward. This year, he was a +2 WAR defender, and over his career he’s averaged +1.6. If we trust the weight our metrics assign to defensive value, Heyward is a true talent level +2 win defender, and that’s rare. Like Headley, Heyward had a down year offensively, but still managed to put up a +5 WAR season due to his elite defense and solid baserunning, something Mike Petriello keenly observed back in May. The Braves have two rare defensive talents on the same team, and fans should feel lucky to watch these guys play every day. Biggest offenders: Ryan Braun (-5.8), Jay Bruce (-5.8), Gregory Polanco (-5.0).