It was hard not to laugh when I first heard the NL Gold Glove awards announced. Three members of the Pittsburgh Pirates were nominated as finalists at each of their respective positions — Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin. All three were well-deserving finalists, but only one truly deserved to win the award.
Marte was the best defensive left fielder in MLB this season. It wasn’t even particularly close. The other nominees to win the Gold Glove in left field in the NL were Colorado Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and Eric Young Jr. of the New York Mets. Marte, the most deserving to win the award, was snubbed. Gonzalez was voted the winner, and it just doesn’t make any sense.
Among left fielders, Marte put up a MLB-high 20.1 UZR/150 and a second-best 10.2 UZR. Marte played in more games than Gonzalez, so the excuse that Marte missed a bunch of games at the end of the season can’t be used. I know the real reason why Gonzalez won, but it’s a shame that it has to be the determining factor.
The real reason? You’ve all heard it before. Anyone that hates on the Gold Glove awards, much like myself, will say that too much weight is put into offensive statistics when determining these awards.
Offensively, Gonzalez is a much better player than Marte. In 2013, Car-Go was one of the best players in the NL. He hit for a .302/.367/.591 slash line with 26 home runs in just 436 plate appearances. Defensively, Gonzalez was still very much above average, but he wasn’t on Marte’s level. Appearing in 857 innings in left field, Gonzalez had a 9.5 UZR/150 in 2013. Marte doubled that.
While defensive metrics are still somewhat unreliable and not always 100 percent accurate, they are still a very good measure of how good a player is most of the time. In this case, having seen every game Marte was involved in this season, the numbers aren’t lying. Defensively, Marte is elite.