darwin barney gold gloveLast night, the Gold Glove Awards were handed out to the “best” defensive players in baseball. And, as has historically been an issue with the award, name recognition and offensive value seemed to conspire to vitiate the reliability of the award, which is supposed to be entirely about defense.

One need look no further than Paul Goldschmidt taking home the Gold Glove at first base over Anthony Rizzo to know that actual defensive ability probably wasn’t the sole driving force behind the managerial/coaching votes. Name an important defensive metric, and Rizzo was the leader – often by a considerable margin. UZR/150? Rizzo 9.2, Goldschmidt 4.4. Defensive Runs Saved? Rizzo 16, Goldschmidt 13. Total defensive value? Rizzo -3.9, Goldschmidt -7.0. Even if you go by an old school metrics like fielding percentage, the two players were tied. The number that probably mattered? OPS. Rizzo .742, Goldschmidt .952.

As for Darwin Barney, he lost out this year to Brandon Phillips’ name and “flair.” Once again, just look at the numbers: UZR/150? Barney 15.5, Phillips 8.5. Defensive Runs Saved? Barney 11, Phillips 1 (that’s an entire win’s worth of a difference!). Total defensive value? Barney 14.7, Phillips 10.9. Hell, fielding percentage? Barney .993, Phillips .987.

The reality of the Gold Glove? Yes, it mostly recognizes the best defensive players in baseball, and the recent development of a relationship with SABR to allow voters to see advanced statistics when they cast their votes is a step in the right direction. But players without a big name or a big bat will always be under-recognized.

The numbers say Rizzo and Barney were clearly the best defensive players at their position this year in the NL (Welington Castillo was, too, but I’m not about to complain about Yadier Molina winning). But Rizzo and Barney played on a crappy team, and didn’t do much with the bat. So they lose.

You can see the full list of Gold Glove winners here.

  • Aaron

    Ruby2626…given what you shared about Rizzo’s .200 RISP…he still had 80 RBI’s.

    How about these stats:
    – Rizzo batted .257 with runners on
    – Rizzo batted .300 with the bases loaded


    • CubbieBubba

      except that with bases loaded is an extremely small sample size and that .300 avg amounts to 4 hits – in a situation where the pitcher was obviously struggling.

  • Funn Dave

    What a shame. Now I loathe Brandon Phillips even more.

    • ruby2626

      Must be a Cincy 2nd baseman thing because Joe Morgan is a big jerk also, he is an insecure little man that years later is still way too jealous of Ryne Sandberg.

  • ruby2626

    Thanks for the link but .191 with RISP and .182 with RISP and 2 outs stinks anyway that you spin it. You make it sound like 80 RBI’s is an acceptable number for a #3 hitter with 600 at bats, it is not.

  • Brian

    Reds fan buddies of mine think because Phillips makes more diving plays that he has better range. I just smile and nod… :) It’s a myth perpetuated by Marty Brennaman and the homer that he’s become at the end of his career. He’s equated Morgan and Phillips’s flashy play to defensive superiority over Sandberg and Barney.
    What people don’t understand is that a lot of times diving plays are due to a poor position pre-pitch or bad jump. Sure it looks flashy, but it doesn’t equate to range.

    • CubbieBubba

      but at the same time Phillips has made many crazy amazing plays, so its not totally unfounded (or due to bad jumps or being misplaced)

      • Brian

        That’s fine, but does that make him a better defensive player? The numbers say otherwise in an overwhelming fashion. That is actually why defensive metrics were created, to take the subjectivity of “wow, look at that play” out of if for the most part.

  • Aaron

    Ruby2626…if you figure the lead-off batter two spots in front of you had only a .284 OBP, Rizzo had a good season. Continuing with the Reds example, Choo had a OBP of .423. I’m not even including the #2 hitter in this equation. Rizzo may have had 20 more RBI’s with Choo alone compared to having Castro as his lead-off.

  • ETS

    I always wanted a manager to just put his batters in order of OBS with the highest first. Just curious if that strategy would be successful.

    • ETS

      I posted this under the wrong headline. oh well…

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