MLB’s awards season started last night with the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards announced. As with any award ceremony that presents gold statues — whether it’s the Oscars or some sort of music awards — there are going to be snubs.
Some of the usual suspects took home the award as expected. Yadi Molina snagged his remarkable eighth straight Gold Glove, while Nolan Arenado — the Sharknado — grabbed his third in a row. There were nine new recipients of the Gold Glove Award this year — which for baseball — is good. You can see the full list of winners at MLB.com.
This is a beautiful segue because someone who won their first Gold Glove robbed someone that should have won their third in a row. The AJC’s Dave O’Brien said it best.
#Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons didn’t win a third consecutive Gold Glove. Award went to Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. Wow.
— David O’Brien (@DOBrienAJC) November 11, 2015
With all due respect to Brandon Crawford, this makes ZERO sense. A month earlier, Andrelton Simmons won his third straight Fielding Bible Award. If you are not privy to the Fielding Bible, they don’t simply name the top defender per league. They decide on the top defender at each position IN ALL OF MLB. They got it right, at least.
Crawford had a good season, but Simmons once again was the best fielding shortstop in baseball in my opinion. Let’s take a look, shall we?
If you look at the simplest stats, Simmons bested Crawford in all of them. Simmons made eight errors all season, which was tied for the least by any shortstop who played more than 120 games (that’s 75 % of the MLB season, and if you can’t play that many games, then you shouldn’t even be considered for any award). Crawford made 13, which to his defense, was a career low. This of course would show a sharp contrast in fielding percentage, where Simmons led all shortstops in BASEBALL (again who played 75% of their games) with a .988 fielding percentage while Crawford came in with a .979.
You want Range Factor? Simmons posted the third highest in baseball with a 4.78. Crawford? 4.63. Simmons started 126 double plays this season while Crawford was part of a mere 89. Simmons numbers aren’t simply better than Crawford’s, they crush his.
Let’s get into the SABR stats to break it down further. The Ultimate Zone Rating is commonly used to determine runs saved due to defensive wizardry. Simmons — of course — was the tops in baseball in UZR, while Crawford was fourth. Who saved the most runs defensively? Have you not figured out the trend yet? You can argue that the Braves — who struggled mightily for the second half of the season — may not have won any games were it not for the glove of Simmons. He is that valuable to Braves.
Managers and coaches account for 75 percent of the Gold Glove selection, with the rest determined by SABR Defensive Index, a metric that expresses how many runs a fielder “saved” for his team during the season. As of the last rankings Sept. 13, Crawford’s SDI of +16.8 was the highest of any N.L. player – not just shortstops – and a big jump from his 2014 (+7.3) and 2013 (+2.6) numbers.
According to the analytics website FanGraphs, Simmons led N.L. shortstops this year in defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating, with Crawford second and fourth in those categories. But in the SABR Defensive Index – which for shortstops factors range, arm strength, sure-handedness and ability to turn a double play – Crawford held a clear edge over Simmons (+10.1) and Hechavarria (+11.6).
(Note from The Wayniac: the numbers the Bee used are not conclusive with the numbers on the SABR site. While Crawford still holds the edge over Simmons, the numbers are not as far apart as the lead you to believe. Crawford’s final SDI was 15.4 while Simmons was 12.9. That’s right, Crawford’s numbers fell towards the end of the season, while Simmons actually rose by nearly THREE points.)
Like I said, Crawford is good, but I think Simmons is better. The SABR Defensive Index again accounts for only 25% of the vote, which means managers and coaches around the league feel Crawford is better. They do know more about baseball than I do — well, most of them at least — so, I guess we need to go with their vote. By the way, Yadi Molina had the third highest SDI amongst catchers. Don’t you dare sit there and tell me this is the deciding factor.
I like SABR — it is a great analytic and scouting comparison tool — but there is a reason that it only accounts for 25% of the vote. The site test still matters, folks, it’s just not the ultimate deciding factor as it once was. Take pitching for example. If a kid has SABR numbers to drool over, but also has the dreaded “inverted-W”, those metrics are pushed to the side. Traditional stats matter as well. A quick fielder can have impressive range and cover a lot of ground, but if he has hands of stone — I don’t care what his metrics are — he’s not clogging the gap in the middle of the infield for my team.
My biggest fear is the MLB is heading to a Matrix type world that SABR will eventually eliminate the beauty of simply playing the game. Remember Yadi Molina’s early career? This guy was a mediocre .260s, seven home runish-type hitter who actually posted a negative WAR in 2006. Now, he’s won his eighth Gold Glove, many consider him the backbone of one of the most successful franchises and will make the case that he is a Hall of Famer.
I’m not trying to hate on Crawford. The dude can flat out play. I simply think Simmons is better.