Gold Gloves

Dave · November 6, 2007 at 2:52 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Since I write about defense a lot here, I figured I’d throw up a quick post on the Gold Glove Awards that were just announced. Hopefully, you guys know by now to not take these things seriously, as they’re by far the biggest farce of any major award in sports. The managers just don’t take these things that seriously, nor do they generally understand how to properly value defensive players.

By and large, they just pencil in the same names over and over every year, leading to things like Greg Maddux winning his 17th gold glove today. Now, I’m not here to argue that Maddux isn’t a great defender for a pitcher – he is – but there’s no way he’s been the best defender in baseball at his position in 17 of the last 18 years. That’s just laziness from the voters and a reflection of how reputation, and not any kind of performance, is the main evaluative tool for managers when it comes to defense.

But, regardless of our misgivings about how these awards are given out, they still receive notoriety, so congratulations to Ichiro and Adrian Beltre on being recognized for their defensive contributions. I’m not sure I’d have voted for Beltre, honestly, and I say this as a card carrying member of the Adrian Beltre Fanboy Club, but it’s nice to see him being recognized as a superb defender.

And, just for fun, if I was voting, these would have been my selections:

Catcher: Gerald Laird, Yadier Molina
1st Base: Kevin Youkilis, Albert Pujols
2nd Base: Mark Ellis, Chase Utley
Shortstop: John McDonald, Troy Tulowitzki
3rd Base: Brandon Inge, Pedro Feliz
Outfield: Curtis Granderson, David DeJesus, CoCo Crisp, Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran, Juan Pierre


64 Responses to “Gold Gloves”

  1. Pete Livengood on November 7th, 2007 12:10 pm

    Agreed, Jeff (and better said). (Yes, I like parentheses today, too).

  2. Dave on November 7th, 2007 12:32 pm

    This may sound like splitting hairs, but in this case, I think it’s an important hair to split.

    I stated, and believe, that major league managers generally do not “understand how to value defensive players”. That is different than saying that managers don’t know how to evaluate defensive players. Small difference in words, but a significant difference in meaning.

    I do believe that managers are generally good enough at figuring out who can play defense and who can’t, with some notable exceptions (Derek Jeter being the big one). The M’s knew Ibanez was bad in left field, which is why Ellison/Jones were used as defensive replacements. This isn’t news to them.

    However, in almost every case, they have no idea what the actual impact of defensive performance is. There are literally managers (Dusty Baker, for one) who believe that great defensive players save more than a run a game with their gloves. That is, of course, totally wrong. There are also managers, like Mike Hargrove, who underestimate the tangible negative value of sticking guys like Ibanez on the field everyday, thinking that the offensive performance given by poor defenders make up for their shortcomings in the field.

    They might both know that Raul Ibanez isn’t good in the outfield, but neither of them know the actual value of Ibanez’s defensive abilities or lack thereof.

    By and large, major league managers (and organizations) get this wrong all the time – they might be able to evaluate defenders, but they don’t properly value them.

  3. Mike Snow on November 7th, 2007 12:42 pm

    I totally agree with you, Dave. Except that the starting point for this discussion, the Gold Gloves, is an “evaluation” problem and not a “valuation” problem. I think there you have to go back to the argument that they’re just not taken all that seriously (and with respect to pitchers in particular, even evaluation is pretty much a lost cause).

  4. Jeff Nye on November 7th, 2007 1:30 pm

    I think it’s good to split hairs in discussions like these, and frankly I don’t find the Gold Glove itself interesting enough to talk about much.

    But Dave says it well; a lot of managers can point and say “you defend good, you defend bad. Unga bunga.” but that’s as far as it goes; they don’t really understand how much Jeter’s poor defense actually costs them in determining the results that happen on the field.

    It only tangentially relates to the GG discussion, inasmuch as it gives insight as to how the people voting value defensive players, but it’s an important point for baseball in general.

    The teams that put a good defense on the field will be the ones that can not only identify good defenders and bad ones, but that also understand how to determine how much effect they have on run prevention.

  5. argh on November 7th, 2007 7:34 pm

    Son, you just taking all the tobacco juice right outa this game.

  6. Eric Walkingshaw on November 8th, 2007 2:05 am

    From 54: “The teams that put a good defense on the field will be the ones that can not only identify good defenders and bad ones, but that also understand how to determine how much effect they have on run prevention.”

    I think you’re missing the evaluation vs. valuation point, Jeff. The organizations that put *good teams* on the field will be the ones that really understand how defense affects run prevention.

    The point was that most teams can already recognize good defense (evaluation), but don’t know how much it’s actually worth (valuation). You don’t have to be understand how defense actually affects run prevention to put a good defense on the field. But to properly value a player or team as a whole (offense and defense), you do.

  7. msb on November 8th, 2007 8:48 am

    this is so sad.

    “… the team is hoping new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre can help salvage a project of two. “We think Mel can help someone like Horacio Ramirez, who was one confused guy most of last year,” Bavasi said.” –TNT.

  8. Jeff Nye on November 8th, 2007 9:47 am

    I don’t really think we’re that far apart, Eric, maybe we’ve gotten into splitting the already split hair again. 🙂

    The general point I was trying to make is that teams are only going to be consistently successful in putting a good defense on the field (and by extension, a better team) if they not only know how to identify where a player is on the spectrum of defensive ability, but also know how to figure out how big of an impact that player has on their overall defensive results.

  9. HamNasty on November 8th, 2007 1:13 pm

    MSB, 57- I thought I was going to have to break that awful article news. The whole thing makes me shudder.

  10. Evan on November 8th, 2007 1:41 pm

    HoRam was confused because he thought he could pitch, and he was wrong.

  11. Hooligan on November 8th, 2007 1:48 pm

    One thing that has always annoyed me about Gold Gloves (and, similarly, defensive valuation) is that they are awarded by position.

    First baseman really shouldn’t be receiving defensive awards. Albert Pujols may play 1B better than the other 1B starters, but isn’t that like saying, “Albert, out of all of the defenders whose defensive shortcomings landed them at first base, you’re number one – the best of the worst.”

    So even on Dave’s list, Pujols receives defensive recognition, but Ichiro (a defensive god compared to Albert) doesn’t get any props.

  12. Ralph_Malph on November 8th, 2007 1:58 pm

    I don’t think it was HoRam who was confused; it was Bavasi when he traded for him.

  13. Jeff Nye on November 8th, 2007 2:20 pm

    First baseman really shouldn’t be receiving defensive awards.

    Well, having good (as opposed to bad) defense at first base is still significant; it’s just not AS significant as the difference between a good and bad defender at, say, shortstop.

  14. JonBBT on November 18th, 2007 3:37 am

    i think that Kenji could have won just on his ability to throw guys out.

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