The 2016 National League Gold Gloves, by the Numbers

Yesterday, we ran the American League edition of this post, where interested parties can locate the methodology used to inform all of what’s to follow. Let us now begin the National League edition of this annual exercise.

Pitcher – Bartolo Colon
Name IP DRS FRAA tDEF
Bartolo Colon 191.2 8 7 7
Jake Arrieta 197.1 5 7 6
Zack Greinke 158.2 7 4 6

It actually happened. Back in July, I wrote a post on how Colon had been baseball’s best-fielding pitcher. Now we’re here in October, and the numbers have held up. While Colon used to fall off the mound in his power-pitching days, he now finishes his delivery in a perfect fielding position, square to home plate, and displayed a combination of incredible reaction time, soft hands, and instincts that allowed him to capitalize on so many balls in play hit right back at him this year. And, believe it or not, this isn’t just a fluke. Dating back to 2014, Colon ranks top-10 among all pitchers in Defensive Runs Saved. He fields his position well, he controls the run game, and this year, he leads all major league pitchers in both Defensive Runs Saved and Fielding Runs Above Average. Now let’s get the old man a Gold Glove for it.

Iron Gloves: Jorge de la Rosa (-4), Tom Koehler (-4), Jimmy Nelson (-3).

Catcher – Yasmani Grandal
Name Inn Framing Blocking Throwing FRAA
Yasmani Grandal 954.1 27 1 0 28
Buster Posey 1069.2 25 0 2 28
Yadier Molina 1218.1 9 1 0 10
SOURCE: Baseball Prospectus

This is why Baseball Prospectus’ pre-season projections considered Yasmani Grandal a potential favorite for National League MVP, something Grandal himself called “absurd.” Those same, nuanced catching numbers are the biggest contributor to Grandal’s 6.7 WAR at BP, putting him in the top-10 among all major league hitters. Simply put, he’s baseball’s best receiver — this is the second consecutive season in which he’s led the league in BP’s framing runs — and all the data we have suggests that framing can add up to huge value. Looking for a way to explain how the Dodgers were able to survive all those pitching injuries this year? Grandal’s ability to steal and preserve strikes behind the plate should be one of your key talking points.

Iron Gloves: Nick Hundley (-14), J.T. Realmuto (-11), Welington Castillo (-7).

First Base – Anthony Rizzo
Name Inn DRS UZR FRAA tDEF
Anthony Rizzo 1337.0 11 6 10 9
Paul Goldschmidt 1389.1 4 2 16 7
Wil Myers 1294.0 8 8 1 6

Between Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, Brandon Belt, Freddie Freeman and now outfielder-turned-first baseman Wil Myers, the defensive talent at first base — relative to other first basemen — in the National League runs deep. Goldschmidt’s received the honors in two of the last three seasons, but it’s Rizzo who leads all first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved since becoming a full-time player in 2012, and it’s Rizzo who has the upper-hand this year.

Curious is the placement of Joey Votto below, who grades out as having not only as the National League’s worst defensive season by a first baseman, but the worst across MLB. Votto has a reputation as a stronger defender that’s always been backed by the metrics, and he certainly didn’t show any signs of physical decline at the plate this year, yet for whatever reason, his defensive ratings have suddenly plummeted. It’s difficult what to make of such a sudden and drastic one-year decline, but it’s certainly something to monitor moving forward.

Iron Gloves: Joey Votto (-7), Chris Carter (-7), Brandon Moss (-2).

Second Base – Joe Panik
Name Inn DRS UZR FRAA tDEF
Joe Panik 1081.0 3 7 13 7
Javier Baez 383.0 11 5 3 6
Cesar Hernandez 1247.1 4 14 0 6

Joe Panik may not have been able to repeat his stellar 2015 season at the plate, but he continued providing value to the San Francisco Giants with his stellar defense, saving enough runs with the glove to turn his 89 wRC+ into average production at second base. The pool of defensive second baseman is relatively shallow; each of the last three winners — and also last year’s three finalists in Dee Gordon, DJ LeMahieu, and Brandon Phillips — graded as average or worse this season, and so Panik’s year is enough to net him recognition through the lens of this exercise

The most interesting inclusion here, though, is the guy in second place. Despite having played just 383 innings at second base, Javier Baez is eligible for a Gold Glove at second base. The requirements are simply 690 total innings by game 137, which Baez meets, and then eligibility at the position which the player most often appeared, which for Baez, happens to be second base. And in roughly one-third of a full season, Baez saved roughly six runs while playing second base with his glove, arm, and lightning-quick tags. Baez likely won’t receive serious Gold Glove consideration at second due to the nature of his usage, but he ought to at least deserve recognition for racking up 16 Defensive Runs Saved in 970 innings across five different positions for the Cubs this season.

Iron Gloves: Daniel Murphy (-7), Brandon Phillips (-4), Ben Zobrist (-4).

Third Base – Nolan Arenado
Name Inn DRS UZR FRAA tDEF
Nolan Arenado 1377.1 20 5 23 16
Justin Turner 1224.2 7 14 -5 6
Kris Bryant 857.0 4 6 2 4

In what’s becoming an annual tradition, Nolan Arenado ran laps around the field of National League third basemen, defensively, and should be viewed as a near-lock to win his fourth consecutive Gold Glove this season. There’s really not much else to be said here, beyond, “Nolan Arenado is incredible.”

What caught my eye is the first name below, in Jake Lamb. In last year’s edition of this post, Lamb emerged as a potential sleeper to challenge Arenado in 2016, having saved more than half as many runs as the Rockies’ third baseman in 2015 in fewer than half as many innings. This year, though, Lamb’s entire game did a 180. He suddenly became a power hitter with league-worst defense ratings. His range grades plummeted, and he developed a throwing problem that hindered his ability to turn his offensive emergence into a truly monster season.

Iron Gloves: Jake Lamb (-8), Adonis Garcia (-7), Maikel Franco (-5).

Shortstop – Brandon Crawford
Name Inn DRS UZR FRAA tDEF
Brandon Crawford 1309.0 19 20 4 14
Addison Russell 1262.2 19 16 4 13
Nick Ahmed 721.1 13 9 10 10

Brandon Crawford did the near-impossible last season by beating out Andrelton Simmons for a Gold Glove, and then Simmons got traded to the American League. Knowing those two facts, Crawford would seem like a Gold Glove lock in the NL for years to come, and while he likely deserves another this season, Chicago’s Addison Russell might give him an annual run for his money. Since switching to shortstop midway through the 2015 season, Russell’s runs saved figures are par with Crawford’s on a per-inning basis, and, for what it’s worth, so have Nick Ahmed’s, who actually had the National League’s best tDEF/inning. The competition is fierce, but Crawford makes up half of perhaps baseball’s best defensive middle infield, and should repeat with another Gold Glove this season.

Iron Gloves: Alexei Ramirez (-13), Jordy Mercer (-8), Aledmys Diaz (-7).

Left Field – Adam Duvall
Name Inn DRS UZR FRAA tDEF
Adam Duvall 1173.1 16 10 11 13
Starling Marte 966.2 19 7 5 10
Yoenis Cespedes 550.2 4 3 8 5

This, I imagine, is the biggest shocker found in this series, for either league. Partly because of how little most folks probably know about Adam Duvall. Partly because he played for the Reds this year, which plays into how little folks probably know about him. And partly because he’s an all-or-nothing slugger at the plate, and we just assume all-or-nothing sluggers are also poor defenders. I’m guilty of this, at least; I had no idea Duvall was having the season he was having. But all three defensive metrics agree that Duvall, who came up as a third baseman (Alex Gordon?) in the Giants’ system, was a +10 defender, or better, in left field for the Reds this year. Starling Marte is probably the favorite to repeat last year’s (deserved) Gold Glove win, but Duvall just might be this year’s more deserving candidate.

Iron Gloves: Jayson Werth (-8), Brandon Drury (-6), Matt Holliday (-6).

Center Field – Ender Inciarte
Name Inn DRS UZR FRAA tDEF
Ender Inciarte 1044.0 13 12 16 13
Billy Hamilton 942.1 15 13 4 11
Odubel Herrera 1301.1 5 4 4 4

When the Braves traded Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks this winter in the offseason’s most controversial move, much of the attention paid to the Braves’ return focused on No. 1 overall draft pick Dansby Swanson, and rightfully so. But it was also immediately worth wondering if, in swapping Miller for Ender Inciarte at the major-league level, the Diamondbacks even got any better? And this is the reason why: Inciarte is truly an elite defensive outfielder, to the point where he’s been something like a 4-win player in each of the last two seasons, despite just a league-average bat. By either UZR or DRS, Inciarte grades as something like a +15-20 defender in more than 3,000 career innings in the outfield, with more than half of those innings coming in center field. Inciarte might be the best true-talent defensive center fielder in the National League, and this yaer’s numbers support his case for a Gold Glove.

Iron Gloves: Andrew McCutchen (-18), Denard Span (-10), Marcell Ozuna (-7).

Right Field – Jason Heyward
Name Inn DRS UZR FRAA tDEF
Jason Heyward 1029.2 14 16 -3 9
Gregory Polanco 906.2 4 6 4 5
Bryce Harper 1245.2 -3 8 2 2

At least the defense was still there. Heyward may have had the fourth-lowest wRC+ among all qualified hitters in the first year of his massive, eight-year contract with the Cubs, but his season wasn’t a total loss, because he remains the National League’s best defensive right fielder. Heyward’s won each of the last two Gold Gloves, and three of the last four, and he deserves to continue that streak this year, despite his abysmal year at the plate.

Also, now seems like a good time to do a quick Cubs update. They have the most deserving candidate at first base. They have the runner-up at second, the runner-up at short, the third-place finisher at third, the most deserving candidate at right, and, if Miguel Montero had caught just a few more innings, they would’ve had the third-place finisher at catcher, too. Yep. Cubs defense: still good.

Iron Gloves: Yasmany Tomas (-9), Jay Bruce (-8), Matt Kemp (-7).

The 2016 Platinum Gloves, by the Numbers
Position Player Team tDEF
C Yasmani Grandal Dodgers 28
P Bartolo Colon Mets 7
1B Anthony Rizzo Cubs 9
2B Ian Kinsler Tigers 9
3B Nolan Arenado Rockies 16
SS Francisco Lindor Indians 19
LF Adam Duvall Reds 13
CF Kevin Kiermaier Rays 16
RF Adam Eaton White Sox 23

Thanks to Jonathon Judge and the Baseball Prospectus staff for research assistance.





August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.

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YKnotDisco
Member
YKnotDisco

First thing I saw was Bartolo Colon. Not the first person to come to my mind when thinking of Gold Gloves. A HR and a GG in the same year!? Has hell frozen over?

Shirtless Bartolo Colon
Member

I’m like a Transformer. There’s more to me than meets the eye.

YKnotDisco
Member
YKnotDisco

I’m glad the “first thing I saw wasn’t a “shirtless” Bartolo Colon”