Yes, it was that time again last night, baseball fans. Time for the awarding of the most offensive defenders, that is! Okay, so Troy Tulowitzki thoroughly deserved to win the award for the second straight year, but the Gold Glove Awards are probably the postseason awards that least reflect reality. The list of 2011 Gold Glove winners could be broken into eight handy categories:
1. Pitchers/Catchers (4 players) -- uh, seriously, who knows what pitcher is really the best fielder? Winners in this category: Clayton Kershaw, Mark Buehrle (who, to be fair, invented a meter and stuff). For what it's worth, Buehrle (I'd like to think he's a distant cousin of mine) won the (far superior) Fielding Bible Award for pitchers. As for catchers, there have certainly been plenty of great improvements to our understanding of catcher defense over the last few years, but these awards still seem to go to a good hitting catcher with a good game calling reputation/good hitter skill set. Yadier Molina was probably a deserving winner, as was Fielding Bible selection Matt Wieters.
2. Great-Hitting First Baseman With The Least Terrible Defense (2) -- Nothing against Joey Votto or Adrian Gonzalez, the winners in this category, but 1st base is a pretty easy position to play. I know, because even my slow butt pulled it off in high school. Sure, there's a certain amount of skill involved at scooping tricky hops/not looking like a brick house (which is why Prince Fielder won't win), but any other player on the diamond could play a passable first base given some quality instruction. Albert Pujols was the Fielding Bible winner, and I'm surprised that he didn't win the Gold Glove too.
3. Great Offensive Players Who Are Actually Also Great At Defense (5) -- Troy Tulowitzki is a shining example of the complete player, with fellow GG winners Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Beltre, and Brandon Phillips also fitting the mold of all-around excellent players getting props for their stellar defense. All but Phillips won a Fielding Bible Award as well -- and that was because Pedroia won at 2B. You can probably throw Jacoby Ellsbury into this category as well, as UZR loved him this season (though Austin Jackson won the Fielding Bible award for CF).
4. Great Offensive Players Who Are Bad At Defense (1) -- Matt Kemp had maybe the best offensive season of any NL player, but by no means was he its best defensive center fielder (or even a league average one). Chris Young or Shane Victorino (or Michael Bourn) would have been MUCH better choices.
5. Poor Offensive Players Who Are Good At Defense (1) -- Placido Polanco was the best option in a season in which both Scott Rolen and Ryan Zimmerman were severely hampered by injuries in the NL -- and a guy nicknamed Fat Panda was the main competition.
6. Players Who Should Have Won, But Are Otherwise Unremarkable (1) -- Gerardo Parra was the best LF in the NL defensively, but was nothing too special offensively.
7. They were pretty good, but Brett Gardner should have won (1) -- Alex Gordon was very good as a converted 3B in LF this year and was a fantastic offensive player in 2011, but he's not in category 3 because there was a much better fielder on the board. The real tragedy of these awards this year is that the best defensive outfielder in baseball was denied a Gold Glove. New York's Brett Gardner won the Fielding Bible award and had an obscene 25.8 UZR this year while posting a MLB leading 22 DRS. Again, Gordon's a great overall player and a good defender, but he's no Gardner in the OF.
8. Andre Ethier, Nick Markakis, and Erick Aybar (3) -- Seriously, Andre Ethier? He had a -16.5 UZR last year, he was injured (with knee problems) this year, and he's not even that good of an offensive player. Justin Upton had a better offensive and defensive season (he won the Fielding Bible award)...and fellow finalist Jay Bruce probably deserved it more as well.
Markakis has a reputation of having a big arm in the outfield, but if that were the determinant in this category, then Ichiro would have won again. Markakis' numbers actually look remarkably like Seth Smith's (with less slugging).
Aybar was a good offensive shortstop and was slightly above average on defense, but there were several AL shortstops who had better defensive seasons (Alcides Escobar and Elvis Andrus come immediately to mind). At least Derek Jeter didn't win.
Here's a full list of the finalists (with commentary by SB Nation writers) on the AL and the NL, while here is the full list of Fielding Bible Award winners.
It's a great honor for Tulo, one that netted him a cool $25,000 in the bank, but I just wish that I could honestly believe that the Gold Glove awards reflected the best defensive players. By my count, there were 5 bad selections, 5-7 good selections, and the rest were fine but others could have easily won.
Nolan Arenado Small Sample Size Domination of Other Top Prospects Update
Colorado's intrepid 20 year-old 3B prospect went 2-4 with two doubles and 3 RBIs yesterday. He leads the AFL in both RBIs (27 in 19 games) and XBHs (13), while batting .383/.400/.667
Baseball Reference Nugget of the Week -- brought to you by the first four weeks of cancelled NBA games:
A total of 55 players appeared in a game for the Rockies in 2011...of which 29 were pitchers. 13 of those pitchers started a game for Colorado.
In 2010, these numbers were 43, 23, and 8. Yep, 2011 was that kind of year for Colorado.