MLB Awards: American League Gold Glove Suggestions
AL gold glove picks
The Gold Glove award is one of the premier awards in the game of baseball and in many ways it is the fairest. One's value to a team is subjective at the best of times and the whole team's performance has to be weighed when determining MVP. Most other awards like Cy Young and Rookie of the Year are of course only open to a section of players. But anyone skilled enough can win a Gold Glove; regardless of team or position.
It's not perfect, of course. It is still a subjective award and one that is voted on. All too often performance with the bat seems to play a part and players from larger, more prominent markets tend to be favoured. There is also the problem that there are few good defensive stats and certainly none of the type one can use to evaluate pitchers or hitters. The most common stat, the error, is actually actively misleading as it is both subjective and in fact tends to penalise better defenders more on average because they make difficult plays look easier than they are. But whilst those are problems they are not fatal ones and the Gold Glove is still a very prestigious award to win.
In the first of a two part post I will give my picks for the American League winners. In this I am endeavouring to put aside the usual prejudice shown by voters toward 'big name' players and toward players who hit better. Only defensive attributes are taken into account.
Pitcher - Justin Masterson
The departure of the usual winner Mark Buhrle for the National League has thrown this award open a bit. There is not really an easy way to determine where this award goes, but Justin Masterson has generally been sharp with the glove this year and has the best range factor of any AL pitcher. That is a somewhat flawed stat, but it tends to work best for pitchers than for others.
Catcher - Matt Wieters
Matt Wieters won the award last year and should repeat as winner this year. He started more games at catcher than any other player in the American League, no mean feat, and of all the catchers who started more than a hundred games he had the fewest wild pitches and passed balls. He also caught 32 runners trying to steal, the second most in the American League.
First Base - Casey Kotchman
First base is a position traditionally marked by big hitters rather than sharp defence. But that does not mean that there are no good glovemen in the league and in fact it is a pretty tough call as to who is the best. But Casey Kotchman led all AL first basemen in assists, generally the best metric for a first baseman with putouts being utterly useless, despite starting only 120 games.
Second Base - Jason Kipnis
Jason Kipnis is not a spectacular second baseman, but he is one with excellent range and is solid fundamentally. In an area with few competitors he gets the nod.
Third Base - Mike Moustakas
The American League leader in putouts and assists (and the latter by a wide margin) amongst third basemen, Mike Moustakas routinely made spectacular plays at third to save extra bases and in more than one case the game itself. He put up his league leading stats despite missing the last series of the season as well.
Shortstop - Alcides Escobar
Quite simply the most spectacular defensive shortstop in the game. Alcides Escobar's range at short is phenomenal and he has the arm to back it up. He has saved dozens of runs for the Kansas City Royals with his glove and often at crucial times. His highlight reel is one of the longer ones in game and with good reason.
Left Field - Alex Gordon
Alex Godon won the Gold Glove in left last year and should repeat this year. His stats are hardly diminished from last year; though his outfield assists were down from a league leading twenty to 'only' 17 (second in the league, most amongst left fielders). His range and ability to rob hitters was undiminished, however, and he remains the premier defensive left fielder in the American League.
Centre Field - Mike Trout
One of the reasons Trout remains in touch in the MVP voting was his spectacular defence this year. His not merely leaping, but almost flying over-the-wall catch was the defensive highlight of the year and it was far from a one-off. His range blew away the competition this year and he should certainly win the Gold Glove.
Right Field - Jeff Francoeur
Jeff Fancoeur led all American League outfielders in assists this year as runners continued to underestimate the power and accuracy of his arm. He also showed great range in patrolling the spacious outfields at Kauffman Stadium and was an invaluable asset this year.