Earlier today, my esteemed colleague, Mr. HoJo’s Mojo wrote about this year’s National League Gold Glove recipients. As he reported, no Mets players had their gloves touched by King Midas. That means the picture to the left will not be repeated at Citi Field next season. Carlos Beltran was not expected to win the Gold Glove because he missed half of the 2009 season. But what about David Wright? Didn’t he hit well enough to win it?
Before you think I’ve forgotten that the Gold Glove is for defensive excellence and is not supposed to have anything to do with a player’s hitting prowess, let me explain what I mean about Wright not hitting well enough to win the Gold Glove.
Last year, Derek Jeter was voted the worst fielder in the American League by the Fielding Bible, which consists of the godfather of stats, Bill James, and nine other panelists. Although I don’t believe he’s the worst fielder, I also don’t think he’s the best. However, he won the Gold Glove this year despite what all the “experts” said about his defensive ability. Let’s look at the stat sheet to see what Jeter did offensively this year.
He hit .334, which was his highest average since 2006 (he won the Gold Glove in 2006). He hit 18 HR, which was his greatest home run output since 2005 (he won the Gold Glove in 2005). He scored 107 runs, which was also his highest total since the Gold Glove season of 2005. He stole 30 bases, which was more than he had stolen in his two previous seasons combined. He did not win the Gold Glove in either of those two seasons (2007 and 2008).
As 1970s comedic icon Arte Johnson would say, that bit of news is “very interesting”. In the two years that he did not win the Gold Glove Award, Jeter never surpassed 15 HR or 15 SB. He also did not hit for as high a batting average or score as many runs. But what do you know? This year, he raised his batting average to .334, had an 18/30 split in the HR and SB department and voila! His glove automatically became golden!
Similarly, Seattle’s center fielder, Franklin Gutierrez had an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 29.1, while Los Angeles’ center fielder, Torii Hunter had a UZR of -1.4. Gutierrez was much more effective at preventing runs from scoring than Hunter was in 2009, but Hunter was awarded a Gold Glove while Gutierrez was not. It should be noted that Gutierrez hit .283 with 18 HR and 70 RBI, while Hunter hit .299, adding 22 HR and 90 RBI despite missing six weeks due to a strained adductor muscle. Hunter has always been an excellent defensive player, but this year Gutierrez was better defensively and deserved the award.
Jeter and Hunter are two examples of players who may have gotten a few extra votes for the Gold Glove Award because of a fine offensive season. However, there was an even more glaring example of a Gold Glove winner taking the award in a season where his offensive output might have swayed a few voters. Does anyone remember Rafael Palmeiro’s Gold Glove Award from the 1999 season?
Ten years ago, Rafael Palmeiro played primarily as a designated hitter, needing only to dust off his first baseman’s mitt for 28 games. Despite playing less than 20% of the season at first base, he was still awarded a Gold Glove for his defensive excellence. However, he did hit .324 with 47 HR and 148 RBI for the Texas Rangers that year, all of which were career highs and all of which were done while he was not doing steroids…period.
So that brings us to David Wright. This year, Ryan Zimmerman replaced David Wright as the National League Gold Glove winner at third base. Wright had been bestowed the prestigious award each of the last two seasons. In both seasons, he was a member of the 30 HR, 100 RBI club.
Zimmerman has always been very good defensively. Some might argue that he was a better defensive player than Wright was during the 2007 and 2008 seasons and they may be right. However, Zimmerman only averaged 19 HR and 71 RBI during the two seasons that Wright won the Gold Glove Award.
In 2009, Zimmerman established career highs with a .292 average and 33 HR. He also added 106 RBI, which was just four shy of his career high. On the other hand, Wright had the worst power season of his career, finishing with only 10 HR and 72 RBI. Of course, Zimmerman won the Gold Glove this season.
If the Mets are going to remain competitive with the Phillies, Marlins and Braves in the National League East next season, they will need bounceback seasons from numerous players. A return to form for David Wright in the power department will go a long way towards bringing the Mets back to respectability. Not only will a power surge help the Mets score more runs, but it might be enough for David Wright to wrest the Gold Glove away from Ryan Zimmerman. After all, pitching wins championships, but sluggers win Gold Gloves, right?
Please note: The point of this blog was to say how silly the voting for the Gold Glove Award can be. How a player performs at the plate has nothing to do with his defensive excellence or lack thereof. If the voters could get this through their heads, perhaps they wouldn’t make fools of themselves as they did in 1999 when they gave the Gold Glove Award to Rafael Palmeiro. Imagine if a player had a clause in his contract that year saying that he would receive a bonus if he won the Gold Glove Award and then had to watch a DH take it from him. I wouldn’t be too thrilled at that situation. For the record, I think Zimmerman should have won the Gold Glove Award each of the last two seasons over David Wright, but I’m not a voter. I’m just a blogger with an opinion.