While three Pittsburgh Pirates were nominated for Tuesday’s Gold Glove awards – catcher Russell Martin and outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte – only one was probably the best in the National League at his position.
Thus, it wasn’t surprising when the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina and the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez beat out Martin and McCutchen for the NL Gold Gloves at catcher and center field, respectively. For the Pirates’ representatives at those two positions, it wouldn’t have been wrong for them to win, but impartial analysis reveals they were beaten by worthy competitors.
However, Carlos Gonzalez‘ win at left field over Marte was just plain wrong, no matter how you measure greatness with the glove.
Just looking at the two players in the field, Marte’s athleticism jumps off the screen, moreso than that of the Rockies’ young star. An argument could be made that he should be playing center field instead of McCutchen, if only because he covers so much ground.
Fortunately, we live in an age where we can supplement what our eyes tell us with some advanced defensive metrics. By the measures of Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which attempts to quantify how much territory a fielder handles, and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), which is more of a literal determination of how many bases (and runs) a player saved or cost his team, Marte was the best left fielder in the league.
According to DRS, Marte saved 20 runs more than the average major-league left fielder, while Gonzalez denied 10. Both are great in that category, but Marte has the clear advantage there. By the UZR measure, the Bucco sophomore came in at 20.1 runs better than average over a 150-game sample size; Gonzalez delivered a plus-9.5 rating over that span.
As you can see, when it comes to defensive metrics, the margin at catcher was quite close, while Gomez had a fairly sizable edge over McCutchen in center. Of course, the Gold Glove voters don’t base their decisions solely on measures that are still being refined, and rightly so.
Nevertheless, while Gonzalez certainly isn’t a hack in left field, it feels like his name recognition was the determining factor in the Gold Glove decision. Progress comes slowly to the mainstream, but Pirates fans can take solace in the fact that Marte was the best defender at this position in the NL last season.
Good glove work wins games, and the 25-year-old Marte should only get better in that area for at least the next couple seasons.
Thanks to the wonderful FanGraphs for the statistical information used in this piece.