On the eve of the announcement of the finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards (2013 edition), I wanted to take the time to properly trumpet the cause of Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez.
But first, the obligatory consternation which you’ll hear ad nauseum whenever a Brewers-centric look at the Gold Glove is written.
Did you know that no Milwaukee Brewer has won a Gold Glove award since Robin Yount last won it as an American League shortstop back in 1982?
It’s been a long and cold winter in terms of off-season defensive recognition in Milwaukee. And while Wisconsin tends to have some actual long and cold winters, it’s high time Rawlings ends theirs in the Badger state.
Here a sampling of some things that didn’t exist the last time a Milwaukee Brewers won a Gold Glove Award.
- Nationwide availability of the Chicken McNugget
- Mario Bros (the arcade game)
- Hooters restaurants
- The Disney Channel
- Care Bears
- And as irony would have it, since you’re reading an internet blog, the Internet (TCP/IP protocol)
Still, while the Brewers have not had a hardware-winning season in over 30 years, they have had a handful of worthy and even deserving contenders for the award. Just last year saw the Brewers with a pair of “finalists”, which is to say that they finished in the top three of balloting. However, Ryan Braun in left field and Aramis Ramirez at third base ultimately ended up just being the most recent runners up. (Not to digress too much from getting to Gomez, but we all agree that Ramirez was robbed in broad daylight last year, right? I mean, of the finalists announced only David Wright had a legitimate argument for winning over Ramirez but by way of his offensive breakout — which is another argument unto itself — San Diego’s Chase Headley won. Yeah…that makes sense.)
Despite all of the disappointment and near misses over the years, this year is the one that should end the drought. This year is the one that should bring the accolades showering down on a Milwaukee Brewers defender like confetti at the Super Bowl.
Why? Well, let’s give you a few bullet points to check off.
- Increased Profile
- New contract
- Starting job (no platoon)
- National Exposure
- 1st All-Star selection of his career
- Atlanta skirmish
- Hank Aaron Award nomination
- MLB Network profile (http://brewernation.mlblogs.com/2013/08/08/mlb-network-feature-video-carlos-gomez-elevating-his-game/)
- Offensive Breakout
- Career highs in multiple categories including home runs
- Spectacular Plays
- Walk off catch
- Five home run thefts
And, for the first time, ACTUAL DEFENSIVE METRICS IMPACT THE RESULTS!!!
You read that correctly. Back in March, Rawlings announced a partnership with the Society for American Baseball Research (“SABR”) to develop a metric called “SDI” or “SABR Defensive Index”.
From Rawlings’ website, they state that “the new sabermetric component in the selection process is just another example of how the iconic (Gold Glove) Award has evolved throughout history as the industry standard honoring defensive excellence at the highest level of baseball.”
You can read the full news item here (http://www.rawlings.com/NewsDetailLanding.aspx?id=1556), including the names of the seven-person “independent committee of experts in baseball analytics and defensive measurement to devise the SDI.” They are called the SABR Defensive Committee.
And when that committee or any National League manager or coach (hopefully actually) looks at the SDI and other available defensive metrics, Gomez is simply the best defensive center fielder in the National League. (He’d be the best in the American League too, but each league votes separately.) Pick your statistical flavor: runs saved, range factor, outfield assists, UZR, Out of Zone, etc. Gomez is at or near the top in all of them.
So why in the world are Brewers fan so nervous about this? Precedent.
It’s wonderful that the SDI is formally being included in the calculation but the Gold Glove has a reputation for being awarded to an offense-minded player and/or a player on a good team because that’s how it’s gone down so often.
Therefore, working against Carlos Gomez are two key things. The Brewers’ 2013 team record (74-88 if you’ve forgotten or blocked it) and Andrew McCutchen.
The first half is what it is. The team’s record isn’t changing (though it would have been worse without Gomez in centerfield and that’s a fact). What’s frustrating is that Andrew McCutchen isn’t even the second-best center fielder in the National League (FanGraphs rankings here: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=cf&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0) but because his team made the playoffs and he’s a favorite for National League Most Valuable Player, he’s seen as Gomez’s closest competition for the Gold Glove. If that sounds ludicrous it’s because it is ludicrous.
Oh, and the other big thing working against Gomez because it is in McCutchen’s favor…the leader of the Pirates won the NL CF Gold Glove in 2012. The danger there, of course, is the managers and coaches around the NL who don’t put the time into this award that it deserves and simply handicap to previous winners.
So yes, Carlos Gomez certainly deserves the Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence by a center fielder in the National League for the 2013 season. But will he actually win the thing?
The sad reality is that all of these accolades; all of these metrics; everything working in Gomez’s favor…usually isn’t worth its weight in gold.