Player’s View: Should Defensive Metrics Factor into the Gold Glove?

I recently posed a question to 11 players and three coaches. It was based on the new selection process for awarding Gold Gloves. Beginning this year, defensive metrics will comprise 25 percent of the “vote,” with 75 percent remaining in the hands of managers and coaches.

How much should defensive metrics factor into the Gold Glove award?

Their responses are listed below in alphabetical order.

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Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox infielder: “I don’t know exactly how all that stuff works, but I will say this: There are some people who go after a ball and not quite get to it, but they traveled a long way to come close. Do they get credit for that range? How you’re positioned also impacts whether you get to a ball. Is that factored in?

“Overall, I guess it’s just another tool. I don’t know how that stuff is measured, so I can‘t really offer much of an opinion as to whether it‘s a good thing or not.”

Tom Brookens, Detroit Tigers third base coach: “It should be factored in, although 25 percent would be as much as I’d like to see. My eyes tell me who makes good plays and who doesn’t. But honestly, a lot of times we don’t see certain players a lot. It’s sometimes hard to judge how good a guy is compared to another guy. We seen one guy play six games and another play 16. We’re inevitably going to see a lot of nice plays by the guy we saw 16 times, and it will stick in our mind. I’d be in favor of looking at the stats and evaluating them myself.”

Brian Butterfield, Boston Red Sox third base coach: “I’m still learning about the different methods of measuring range. When I vote… I think the majority should be the eyeballs of the coaches, but I also want to see the numbers. If a guy has a high error total, I certainly have to consider that.

“Before all the sabermetrics came in, I would tell our people upstairs that I want a numbers sheet before voting. I want to see things like errors and total chances. Sometimes total chances might better define a player. A guy positions himself better or has more range, and is he playing behind a strikeout pitching staff or a ground ball pitching staff? A lot factors in. Defining a good defensive player is an inexact science.

“You also only see guys a certain amount of times over the course of the season. I consider that and would hope other voters consider that too. I think the coaches need to take some time when they fill out their ballots. This is an important award for a young man. I don’t take it lightly, so if numbers make our choices better, that’s a good thing.”

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins infielder: “This is the first I’ve heard of it. I think they should [play a role]. In the past, a lot of who wins a defensive award has had to do with offensive stats. Guys I felt were the best at their position defensively didn’t win because they got out-hit. As much as I don’t like sabermetrics — you don’t play the game on paper — it could be a good thing as far as defensive awards.”

J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles infielder: “I think that’s fair, and I think it’s good the coaches get a chance to look at those statistics. Obviously, statistics mean a lot. I think defensive stats are starting to hold more weight. They’ve started coming up with some new ones and if they show who the better defensive players are, I’m all for it.”

Torii Hunter, Detroit Tigers outfielder: “I don’t have no say about that, because I don’t really care for it. I’m not a big fan of sabermetrics.”

Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers outfielder: “How much? All of it, really. It’s the Gold Glove, right? That’s what it should be based on. It will be interesting to see how it goes and I think it’s fine they’re doing that.”

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles outfielder: “The numbers should play a big role, because they let you know… but that’s not up to me. I just go out and play my best. But I do wonder how they measure. You have to look at how the outfielders are shifting. You’ll see certain balls drop because an outfielder is playing more to one side. A certain pitcher has higher velocity so you might play oppo, but he hits the ball where you’d have been for a pitcher with less velocity.

“But hey, however they feel like making it. One of the best centerfielders out there is Austin Jackson. He was my pick the last three years for the Gold Glove. I want to win it myself, but all I can do is go out there and play the best defense for my team.”

Mick Kelleher, New York Yankees first base coach: “For a starting point, 25 percent is good and we’ll see how it goes. I like the idea of incorporating that, because it will help us get away from it being a popularity contest where a guy with a good bat is always winning a Gold Glove. I’ve seen a lot of guys I felt were the best at their position not get the Gold Glove. That was happening when I was a player back in the 1970s. This could help correct that.

“If you have a great defensive year and lead the league in fielding, you should win it. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest. And defense is just like offense. You don’t lead the league in hitting six years in a row, and you don’t lead in defense every year either. But we’ve had guys win the Gold Glove 10 years in a row, just because of his reputation. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good fielders, but you couldn’t tell me there wasn’t somebody along the line who didn’t deserve it more. So in my opinion, 25 percent is a good starting point, and if we like how it’s working out, maybe we can increase it.”

John McDonald, Boston Red Sox infielder: “Ideally, you judge off of watching guys day in and day out, rather than highlights and offensive numbers. I think there’s a place for the metric side of it, although numbers, like anything, can be skewed. I think having 25 percent metrics is a good thing. When you put managers and coaches in front of a ballot, offensive numbers factor into their Gold Glove awards. I know that, because I’ve heard coaches talk about it. ’He didn’t hit well enough for me to vote for him.’ That blows me away.”

Lyle Overbay, New York Yankees infielder; “If I knew what all the defensive metrics were, I’d be able to offer a good opinion. I can’t really comment on things I’m not educated on. But I do think there should be something else that goes into it as a deciding factor. The coaches have a lot on their minds and sometimes maybe don’t do all their homework.

“As far as the process, I guess I’m glad they’re doing something. I can’t sit here and bash [the metrics] because they might be doing a good job with that. I know at times, if you haven’t played for a big-market team or hit well enough, you never got a Gold Glove.”

Brendan Ryan, New York Yankees infielder: “I think it should be part of it. I don’t know to what extent, but I like the idea of a panel devoting its time to getting it right. You have a nice blend of black-and-white numbers and a panel paying attention to what’s going on.

“It’s hard for the AL East to pay attention to the AL Central and have an accurate reading on what, say, a third baseman is bringing to the table defensively on an everyday basis. I don’t think it’s fair to the players in the league. Take me for example. I haven’t played against the Orioles hardly at all. Not saying I deserve to win, but they haven’t seen me play, so how would they know?

“We shouldn’t just keep repeating what we do. We should continue to get better when it comes to getting things right. The game is evolving.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox catcher: “A lot, I guess, but it depends on which defensive metrics. What are they going off of? I do know that in the past, the guy who wins the Gold Glove is the guy who hits the best. Brendan Ryan is one of the best gloves in baseball, but if he hits a buck-eighty, he’s not going to win one. If he hits .280, coaches will more likely look at him and say, ‘He does it day in and day out.’ That’s not right.”

Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox outfielder: “Stats are used in every other aspect of the game. The game is judged by stats. Writers look at them when it comes to things like the MVP and the Cy Young. I think it’s good to implement them. But on the backside of that, what elements are they going to use? Do they account for the field you play on, the ground you cover? What metrics are going to be used?

“The coaches who are voting don’t get to see certain players very often. That makes it tough for them to judge. If you don’t see someone play every day, you can’t know how good he is. But you can look at metrics; you can line up all these pieces of paper and see, ’OK, this guy has five outfield assists and this guy has 10; this guy has one error and this guy has three.’ Numbers justify how good a player is defensively, just like offensive numbers. I’d like to be able to vote on my personal judgment, but I don’t see all of the players every day. I think it’s good to implement stats.”

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Note: Thanks to Brandon Warne of ESPN Minnesota for procuring the quote from Brian Dozier.



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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