Not a few months ago, that headline would have read like a lame attempt at parody.
But after five months of error-free ball in left field, and modestly improved range, it has become something less like a joke than a genuine discussion point. The eyeball test tells you Soriano is no Gold Glover, but might our eyeballs be underestimating Soriano’s ability … and overestimating his competition? After all, Soriano no longer has to be one of the top three outfielders in the NL to win the award, he simply has to be the best defensive left fielder in the NL.
In fact, of the six qualifying left fielders in the major leagues, Soriano is the only one who has not recorded an error. He has played the second most games of the six qualifiers and was error-free in 215 total chances before Tuesday’s contest.
So does Soriano think he can win the [Gold Glove] award?
“I don’t know because I never have been in that competition,” said Soriano, who then proceeded to throw out a runner advancing to third base in the first inning. “We’ll see with 30 more games left.”
The way Soriano sees it, his biggest competition for the Gold Glove in left field is Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Jason Kubel of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Soriano goes on to point out that he should at least have a chance in the competition if he keeps up his errorless ways.
And, for whatever little it’s worth, Soriano’s defense holds up exceedingly well in the primary advanced defensive metric at FanGraphs, Ultimate Zone Rating. His UZR of 15.2 is the fifth best of any player at any position in baseball, and is the top in left field. Heck, it’s higher than Darwin Barney’s UZR, who comes in 8th at 12.4.
(Query whether this demonstrates Soriano’s hidden value as a defender, or the still-present problems with advanced defensive metrics. Baseball Reference has Soriano as slightly below average defensively this year.)
So, what do you think? Is this just a silly discussion based on stats that aren’t really reflective of defensive ability? Or should Soriano really be in the Gold Glove discussion in left field in the NL this year? If not Soriano, then who?