Gold Glove Awards Take Another Step Forward

You might be wondering where Dave Cameron is. He’s presently down in Arizona, at the SABR Analytics Conference. You’re probably not wondering where David Appelman is. He’s presently also down in Arizona, at the SABR Analytics Conference. Plenty has already been shared at the conference, and plenty more will be shared later on, but before the FanGraphs contingent and also several others, an announcement was made pertaining to the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards.

We’ll draw straight from the Rawlings official website. Excerpted:

Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc. […] announced today during the Society for American Baseball Research’s annual SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix a new collaboration with SABR. This collaboration will add a new sabermetric-based component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award® and Rawlings Platinum Glove Award™ selection processes.

As part of the multi-year collaboration beginning with the 2013 season, SABR will develop an expanded statistical resource guide that will accompany the Rawlings Gold Glove Award ballots sent to managers and coaches each year. In addition, SABR will immediately establish a new Fielding Research Committee tasked to develop a proprietary new defensive analytic called the SABR Defensive Index™, or SDI™.

Basically, Rawlings will work with SABR. Rawlings already sent out a statistical resource packet to Gold Glove voters the last few years. Now SABR’s going to improve the packet. Additionally, and more importantly, SABR will create a committee that, in turn, creates a new statistical defensive metric. This metric will play a role in determining the award winners. Much of it will still be left up to the voters, but no longer will the voters represent 100% of the input. The breakdown in determining award winners will be X% voters, and (100 – X)% SDI.

SDI has not yet been developed, and it hasn’t yet been determined how much of a role it will play. Those parts are coming, though, so the process will be different and in place well in advance of the 2013 award voting.

We don’t know anything about SDI, because SDI doesn’t yet exist. But we can trust that it won’t be awful, given the people in charge of the people in charge of creating it. I don’t know what it might add beyond DRS or UZR, but as long as it’s based on the right data, it can only go so poorly. The Gold Gloves are going to welcome the influence of advanced math, as Rawlings is continuing to try to change the awards’ reputation.

Now, among statheads and FanGraphs readers, there probably exists a preference for the Fielding Bible Awards, and that probably isn’t going to change. Those awards are almost entirely math, with little room for Gold Glove subjectivity. It’s possible this is a response on Rawlings’ part to the Fielding Bible Awards’ increased exposure, but the processes will remain starkly different. The reasons people preferred one over the other are going to remain unchanged.

But in terms of standing among ballplayers, it’s still the Gold Gloves that matter the most. Players have become more aware of the Fielding Bible Awards, but Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel won Gold Gloves. Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson won Gold Gloves. It’s Gold Gloves that players want to win, more than they want to win Fielding Bible Awards, so this is a step forward in getting the right players recognized. Even though we don’t yet have much in the way of information, it’s hard to imagine how this could make things worse.

Truth be told, the Gold Gloves were already making progress. They’ve come a long way since the Rafael Palmeiro embarrassment, and just last year they awarded a Gold Glove to Darwin Barney. I think there’s a tendency to exaggerate how lousy the Gold Gloves can be, but they’ve remained subjective and this latest development will introduce just a little math, to supplement coaching-staff observations. No, they aren’t going to be based entirely on contemporary metrics. If they were, they’d just be the Fielding Bible Awards. But every step forward is progress, and all progress should be applauded, especially when it’s made by so established an institution. The Gold Gloves don’t have to get smarter about the voting process. There’s tradition on their side. The intent is somewhat noble.

Now there’s the matter of a more philosophical question: why does it matter who wins a Gold Glove award? Gold Gloves don’t determine performance — performance, in theory, determines Gold Gloves, and we care about wins and losses. Performance determines wins and losses. It seems to me the Gold Gloves, like all awards, mean a hell of a lot more to the players than they do to the fans. For the fans, they’re by and large just something to talk about after baseball is over.

But there’s value in those discussions, and clearly, as evidenced by the 2012 AL MVP conflagration, awards can make some people passionate. To me, most simply, as long as there are awards that are supposed to recognize the best, we might as well hope they actually recognize the best. I wouldn’t mind if there were no Gold Gloves at all, but because there are, we might as well hope that they don’t suck. Sucky awards are a disservice; appropriate awards are an honor. And, eventually, award credentials can help make someone’s case for the Hall of Fame.

To fans, the Gold Gloves aren’t and shouldn’t be important. But they don’t have to be completely irrelevant, and Friday, we have word that the voting process is about to improve, leading eventually to improved selections. That’s a win. It’s a minor win, like a vending machine spitting out an extra quarter, but, cherish anything that can make you even just a little bit happier.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

59 Responses to “Gold Glove Awards Take Another Step Forward”

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  1. El Vigilante says:

    Sure, it is weird that any awards matter to fans. Why should fans care about which movie wins the Academy Award for Best Picture? It is all quite absurd. The problem is that the GG awards lend unwarranted credibility to players. When trying to discuss the inabilities of Derek Jeter, the sabre-averse fan is quick to mention GG. I’m hoping this leads to better informed discussions.

    I think the exciting portion of this news is the creation of a new defensive stat. As long as Rawlings is willing to share the entire process and maintain transparency with the stat, I’m cautiously optimistic.

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    • Baltar says:

      Good comment, especially the “unwarranted credibility” part.
      On the new metric, I am just cautious instead of cautiously optimistic. There’s certainly not enough time to develop and test a really new stat, so I’m afraid it might just be some kind of average of existing ones. However, that’s still progress, I guess.

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    • The Nemesis says:

      Fans care because awards for players are often validation of their own beliefs. If I think Player X was deserving of MVP consideration for his season, I want to feel that my opinion is legitimized by having that player factor into the actual MVP race.

      They also allow us to gauge the media’s views and tendencies and, as you said, impact credibility. This year’s AL MVP debate helps show where baseball media at large stands on traditional measures vs sabermetric measures. Gold gloves (as they were) showed the holes in the sabr-averse evaluation of defence. But they also worked to undermine the pro-sabr crowd in the eyes of the non-stathead because we’ve had generations of conventional baseball thinking drilling the legitimacy/meaning of gold gloves into our head.

      So seeing that something that’s been a symbol for all things anti-sabr embrace the idea of having a statistical component now means that the stathead crowd can now hold their own a little better in the defensive debate, and also means that perhaps we’re moving more toward a time where media takes all evidence into account instead of picking and choosing and being dismissive of things they’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. And as the media goes, so goes the casual fan.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I also think people have a general sense of fair and unfair.

        For example, when I watch the NBA, I don;t want to see Steve Nash win 2 MVPs because I know that defense is part of the game, and Nash doesn’t play any.

        The tough part of fans and fielding is that you really do need to “be there” to see where players start, where they end up and how that compares to their opposition (for a comparison).

        You watch highlights and Azdrubal Cabrera is the best SS in the AL.

        I go to a Cardinal game (a few years ago) and notice that Brendan Ryan starts off in shallow LF, yet always seems to get to everything very quickly but never rushed, and always seems to get the grounder after the 2nd hop.

        Most fans see baseball on TV, and I don;t think TV does a good job at showing defensive range or how far guys travel to make plays.

        We all see Jeter’s patented jump throw play, what we don’t see (or saw) was Tejada make the same play, only not requiring the whole jumping and the leaping and the throwing, etc … just making a routine backhand play because of his advantage in range.

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        • tbjfan says:

          “We all see Jeter’s patented jump throw play, what we don’t see (or saw) was Tejada make the same play, only not requiring the whole jumping and the leaping and the throwing, etc … just making a routine backhand play because of his advantage in range.”

          Doesn’t that argument lend itself into the idea that bad defensive players can make routine plays look hard, while good defensive players can make difficult plays look easy?

          I agree, defense is way to deceiving to be measured accurately by the fans on TV.

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  2. BbnT says:

    Glad to hear about the potentially new metric to measure something we aren’t that good at

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  3. Will says:

    What makes you think that the Gold Glove isn’t important to fans or that it shouldn’t be? We’re talking about fans, right? The word whose etymology includes the word fanatic? Not everyone likes something for logical or statistically-based reasons.

    That said, I’m glad (probably like everyone else posting here) to see a mixed-methods approach being taken for the Gold Glove. Certainly as you put it, this is a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping that it proves fruitful.

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    • El Vigilante says:

      It is very strange to call out the correct importance of GGs to fans (close to zero) but also mention that, “among statheads and FanGraphs readers, there probably exists a preference for the Fielding Bible Awards.” Caring about these awards is equally absurd. If anything it is even more absurd for fans to be rooting for strangers to win an award that the recipients care even less about than the GGs.

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  4. Tyler Greene says:

    Well, as long as this results in Brendan Ryan finally getting one.

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    • guest says:

      For Brendan Ryan to be playing every day, he MUST be an amazing fielder to be giving so many runs up with his bat. Just as how Derek Jeter must be a very good hitter to overcome his fielding and be a future Hall of Famer.

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      • Breadbaker says:

        Derek Jeter has five Gold Gloves. Brendan Ryan has a nice collie.

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        • sumfears says:


          Looks like Jeter might of deserved one of his GG’s, except Andrus had a fielding score of 12.1

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        • jim says:

          yeah yeah yeah, we all know about jeter and his gold gloves. can we collectively find a new gold glove-related narrative, please?

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        • KDL says:

          Why do we need a new one, when the old one is 1)accurate 2)a perfect illustration of the point?
          And obviously not “everyone” knows this or thousands of casual baseball fans wouldn’t think DJ deserved those awards.
          And I thought the worst thing about ‘narratives’ was just making them up willy-nilly so that we have new naratives to yammer about. So, again, why not just keep going with the one that works? (This last paragraph is based on the idea that there is a narrative…whereas, I think, it’s really just an example of the less than perfect, old GG system.)

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  5. Yinka Double Dare says:

    Given there’s no perfect defensive stat or anything even close (see: UZR needs 3 years of data or so to get a proper picture, influence of shifts/positioning, etc), having a combo of stat and voting actually makes the most sense, particularly since the voting seems to have improved at least somewhat.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      I actually agree with this.

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    • Matt says:

      If there is no perfect ‘defensive’ stat – does that imply that there are perfect offensive or pitching stats?

      I’m sure that’s not what you are saying, but it seems that way to many people jump at the opportunity to bash defensive metrics due to their randomness while not taking a minute to look at the randomness of all statistics.

      Hopefully the silver slugger and every other award eventually takes this same route and attempts to create improved metrics for all facets of the game. I applaud the effort (but wonder if this was purely a decision by Rawlings in order to avoid a continued decline in legitimacy – either way it’s a step in the right direction)

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  6. semperty says:


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    • Jason B says:

      Welcome to the FanGraphs community, “Nature Boy”. We could use a little flair ’round here.

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  7. Detroit Michael says:

    You’re right; I care about the Fielding Bible awards and look over the ballots. I stopped caring about the Gold Glove award a long time ago, even though I still care about MVP and Hall of Fame debates paradoxically.

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  8. Blarghh says:

    Well Gold Gloves do lose some of their credibility when AJ Pierzynski is a finalist two years running. But I just took a glance at the catcher Fielding Bible Awards from 2012 and their catcher ranks were just as bizarre, so I’m not particularly fond of either.

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  9. Kevin says:

    “I wouldn’t mind if there were no Gold Gloves at all, but because there are, we might as well hope that they don’t suck.”

    Best part of the article, and really the best synopsis of it.

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  10. I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of the century. Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it’s reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of efforts on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs.

    I clearly recognize that defensive systems have limitations and raise certain problems and ambiguities. But with these considerations firmly in mind, I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering [award voters] impotent and obsolete.

    Tonight we’re launching an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history. There will be risks, and results take time. But I believe we can do it. As we cross this threshold, I ask for your prayers and your support.

    Thank you, good night, and God bless you.

    +21 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dan Greer says:

      Bravo, Mister President.

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    • But can SABR Defensive Index help end communism in our time by creating an arm race with Chinese and North Korean defensive rating systems?

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      • Joe says:

        All hail the Great Leader, winner of the Gold Glove in LF, CF, RF, 3B, SS, 2B, 1B, and C. He won but did not accept in P category due to his magnanimity. He laughs at your puny Brendan Ryan but thinks that his facial hair is way cool.

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      • Baltar says:

        I gave you a + for your good joke, but it does touch a raw nerve of mine.
        The idea that communism collapsed because Reagan bankrupted it by spending so much money on defense is absurd. Reagan and his advisors never even hinted that that was their strategy when Reagan was in office. It wasn’t until communism did collapse, primarily because Gorbachev loosened the iron glove that is necessary to maintain suppression of people, that former members of his administration created that great lie.
        Although I am almost never surprised anymore by the stupidity of the American people, I am astounded that they swallowed this one.

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      • I apologize if I implied any of the following:

        (a) that the Reagan administration deliberately attempted to bankrupt the USSR via Star Wars,

        (b) that Star Wars alone led to 1991,

        or (c) that I had any interest or pleasure in debating this matter — especially with someone who appears to have already made up their mind.

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        • Jason B says:

          Star Wars didn’t lead to 1991, but it DID lead to “A Phantom Menace”, which is equally problematic.

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        • Baltar says:

          I intended no criticism of you, Bradley. Your joke was funny. I didn’t mean to imply that you held any political views on the subject that the joke was based on.

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    • Jason B says:

      To be fair, I think many award voters are already impotent.

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  11. Bill says:

    Rumor has it that Jim Bowden is the one developing SDI. It is most likely going to be scientifically determined by taking fielding percentage and subtracting errors. This is not dissimilar from his equally brilliant OBP+RBI metric.

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    • Dimaggio says:

      That’s insane. I thought that was a joke until I looked up the stat and found the Wikipedia page for it. That should get him back in a front office somewhere. Dear Lordy!

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  12. Zigs says:

    I am glad that there will be a different metric used. The current methods are really poor and hurt war significantly; this seems to be a step forward.

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    • Baltar says:

      I advise us all to temper our expectations for this metric. As I said above, it is likely to end up being some kind of amalgam of existing metrics, rather than any great improvement.
      Still, it is a good thing that this is happening.

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  13. Joe says:

    It’s still going to be subjective, and still largely a measure of recognition by one’s peers and colleagues, and/or a nod to longevity or stature in the game.

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  14. mike says:

    A cool fielding “stat” would be a mini-graphic/map of the field and markers for the balls the player gets out and the ones he makes errors on. It might get distorted with shifts, but I think it could show you close to the exact range of each player. The Ken Griffey’s and Ozzie Smiths would jump out at you and you’d see all the doubles taken away, etc.

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  15. IanKay says:

    To those of you asserting that fans don’t care (and would be absurd if they did care) about who gets awards: Isn’t it just as “absurd” that I was excited to watch a man I have never met (David Freese) playing for a team representing a city I have never lived in (St.Louis) hit a home run against a team I have no connection to (Rangers) in a sport I have no professional connection with?

    I also collect cardboard likeness of these guys, pore over advanced mathematical metrics that tell me what these strangers are doing on fields far away from me, and have even traveled a great distance to see a room full of bronze plaques of dead players that I never saw while they were alive.

    All of that absurdity aside, if I follow a team or a player for 162 games over 6 months, checking box scores, watching highlights, seeing as many games as I can… Is it not SO absurd that I might be happy or disappointed to see him win (or not win) an award?

    There’s no logical reason for any of us who have no financial stake in the games to care AT ALL about anything that happens to these guys whatsoever. I hope most of us here are here because we allow for that absurdity, and not just for the math.

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  16. That Guy says:

    No mention yet of Field f/x? That’s the first thing I wondered about – are the SABR guys going to have access to that in order to help create SDI?

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  17. channelclemente says:


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  18. Jimmy D says:

    So no more Gold Gloves for defensive bums like Jeter and Cargo.

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