Gold Gloves: Cheers, Jeers, and Snubs

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The Snubs
There are plenty of players one could make a case for, but there are two who really, really stand out to me. One because he somehow gets overlooked for every award every year, despite being one of the top five players in all of baseball, and the other because he was almost incomprehensibly brilliant in the field this year, and chances are you've never even heard of him. 

Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
I feel bad for Chase Utley. I really do. Ryan Howard won an MVP for having a really good September a couple years back, even though Albert Pujols destroyed him in virtually every statistical category. Jimmy Rollins won an MVP the year after that for stealing bases and being a loudmouth. Chase Utley, though, has never won an MVP. Never mind his WAR totals dwarf those of both his teammates. (In 2006, when Howard won the award, he was worth 7 wins above replacement. Utley has been better than that every season but one since 2005.) Never mind he's a better overall hitter than Howard and makes Rollins look like Aaron Miles. Chase Utley could teach Rodney Dangerfield a thing or two about a lack of respect. 

Chase Utley was the best second baseman in the NL by plus/minus at 14 runs above average; UZR had him at +10.8. He added over a win with his glove alone by either method, yet was shut out of the Gold Glove voting yet again. Instead, Orlando Hudson and his -3.3 UZR rating took home Utley's award. Maybe it's just because Utley doesn't have a cool nickname. After all, O-Dog is much easier to remember and cooler to say than Possibly The Best Second Baseman Since Joe Morgan. Just doesn't really roll off the tongue the same way, you know? 

I'm also giving an honourable mention here to Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers, who posted a brilliant 9.6 UZR this year after being an atrocious fielder the first few years of his career. Hopefully it's a turnaround and not just a blip; it would be nice to see the kid from Mizzou collect some hardware in the near future. 

Franklin Gutierrez, CF, Seattle Mariners
I know what your'e thinking. Your'e sitting there, thinking, "Why does that name sound so familiar to me? I know I should know who that is." Well, don't feel bad that Gutierrez' name isn't exactly on the tip of your tongue. He's young and just beginning to establish himself, he isn't much shakes with the lumber in his hands, and he plays in baseball purgatory. No offense to my colleague and Seattle native Keegan Hamilton, but the Mariners just don't really register on the radar of the rest of the country. Everybody knows Ichiro because he's so awesome he has forced his way into the collective consciousness, and Griffey still has a name that recalls the old glory, but other than that, the general public just doesn't pay much attention to Mariners. They play on the wrong coast, so all the games are late, they don't play in LA, Alyssa Milano doesn't show up on their broadcasts on a regular basis, and they've been rather bad for most of this decade. 

So no, I don't blame you for not knowing Franklin Gutierrez all that well. I will, however, tell you right now you should start paying attention, because he is something truly special. 

Colby Rasmus is one of the best young center fielders in the game of baseball; he tracks down fly balls with an elegant ease that belies his range. His UZR in 2009 was an outstanding 8.9 runs above average in center field. 

Franklin Gutierrez' UZR in 2009 was 29.1. 

Let that soak in for a second. Twenty nine point one. Nearly 30 runs better than an average center fielder. 

Plus/minus puts him at 24 runs above average. He made 43 plays an average center fielder wouldn't have made by that system; the next closest player to him was Tony Gwynn Jr. at 23 extra plays made. 

You can say whatever you want about one-year sample sizes, but Gutierrez was worth 21.3 runs for the Indians as a right fielder in 2008 -- in 97 games. Adjusted to 150 games, that's 33.5 runs. It's hard to believe, yes, but Franklin Gutierrez has averaged three wins on defense the past two seasons. He's an impact defender like no one else in the game right now. If you have a chance to actually watch a Mariners' game (I order the Extra Innings package every year, mostly so I can watch AL West games), I urge you to do so. Pay attention to how many balls are hit into the gaps that find gloves. Between Gutierrez in center and Ichiro in right, I don't know how you ever get a hit against Seattle. 

And, of course, he was ignored in favour of Torii Hunter. Reputation for brilliance vs. actual brilliance. Reputation wins the award every time.


Overall, I thought the voters did a decent job this year. Albert should have won over Adrian Gonzalez, but I guess at some point voting for Pujols just gets boring, so I can forgive the voters. Still, the Gold Gloves are one of the worst awards in a sport full of arbitrary and foolish awards, and until the voters start paying more attention to the new methods we have of actually tracking defense, I just don't see how anyone can continue to take them seriously. 

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