The AL and NL Gold Glove Awards were released this week. Does anybody care? This award is based so much on reputation that it's not even interesting to see who wins. Everybody knows Derek Jeter is going to win no matter how he plays. Everybody knows that Michael Young has no chance of being voted in over Jeter, despite the fact that he is statistically superior to Jeter in every category (as is Jhonny Peralta, Juan Uribe, and Orlando Cabrera; that's four out of only nine shortsops that qualified this season) . In fact, let's take a deeper look at some of the Gold Glove winners this season and how their statistics compare with other qualified players at their position.
Let's start with the previously discussed AL shortstop award, the easiest argument to make. Derek Jeter won the AL Gold Glove for shortstop for the third consecutive year (Note: The last time a guy not named Jeter, A-Rod, or Vizquel won this award, the Pirates were in the postseason), despite being below average in fielding percentage, range factor (RF), and zone rating (ZR) (Glossary). Out of nine qualified shortstops in the AL, Jeter ranked 4th in fielding pct. (.975), 9th in RF (4.14), and 7th in ZR (.810). Take away his average fielding percentage, a flawed statistical measure at best, and Jeter was arguably the worst defensive shortstop in the AL this season. Michael Young (ranked 2nd in RF and 2nd in ZR), Jhonny Peralta (1st, 6th), Juan Uribe (3rd, 1st), Miguel Tejada (4th, 4th), Carlos Guillen (7th, 3rd), and Orlando Cabrera (8th, 5th) all were more deserving than Jeter. Or in other words, 2/3 of all qualified shortstops. But then again, one time Jeter caught a pop-up and then went face first into the seats. Plus he won this award last year. So maybe he does deserve it every year until retirement.
Then there's Torii Hunter, who won his sixth straight Gold Glove in 2006. This marks the third consecutive season that the entire AL Gold Glove outfield remained the same. Hunter is an incredible athlete who seems to show up every night on Web Gems, but does that make him the best outfielder in the game, as he is often called? Personally, I think that over half of the great outfield catches we see should be much easier plays than they end up being, but that's another post for another day. Let's take a look at the stats. Out of ten qualified AL centerfielders, Hunter ranks 6th in range factor (2.56) and 7th in zone rating (.870). I would say that Corey Patterson has a beef here (2.94, .926), as does Brian Anderson (2.87, .883). Or how about Carl Crawford (2.24, .878), who had an outstanding RF for a leftfielder. And while we are discussing AL outfielders, Vernon Wells ranked dead last out of AL centerfielders with a RF of 2.34 (and if we want to bring back fielding percentage, he was next to last there too). But he won a Gold Glove for the third straight season. And Andruw Jones over in the NL, who won his 9th straight Gold Glove this season was last among all Major League outfielders with a pathetic ZR of .846.
There are many other 2006 winners that I could vent about here, but I am tired and don't feel like talking about such a stupid award anymore.
Qualifications = 2 games per 3 team games
Fielding Percentage = (PO + A) / (PO + A + E)
Range Factor (RF) = (PO + A) / innings
Zone Rating (ZR) = The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone," as measured by STATS, Inc.
All statistics provided by ESPN.com