While playing on a bad team usually precludes a player from getting enough MVP votes to matter, that same standard does not apply to Gold Glove awards. Case in point: last season, the Rockies were bad, and yet both Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu won Gold Gloves. And they deserved them. They won on the strength of votes from managers and players around the league, as well as the Society of Baseball Research's Defensive Index (SDI), which accounts for 25 percent of the vote. So at the end of a lost season, let's turn to our attention to an award bestowed on two Rockies last season and think about who on the 2015 version of the team might bring home a Gold Glove this offseason.
The Rockies will have five eligible candidates. The time split at first base, shortstop, and left field takes any member of the Rockies out of contention. We can spare words on Nick Hundley's chances, too. If Yadier Molina doesn't win his eighth consecutive Gold Glove, it will probably go to Buster Posey. So we have four viable candidates: Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, DJ LeMahieu, and Nolan Arenado. Let's start with the oufield.
While the Gold Glove awards go to three outfielders without regard to position, it's fair to compare Blackmon and Gonzalez against their positional peers. SDI ranks left, center, and right fielders separately.
There are eleven qualified center fielders through Saturday's games. In terms of the traditional metrics, which have clear flaws that won't prevent the managers and coaches who vote to consider them, Blackmon doesn't shine. His .993 fielding percentage ranks seventh out of 11. He has, however, only made two errors, and he leads the NL in outfield assists with eight. A problem for Blackmon is that the NL leader in fielding percentage, Billy Hamilton, hasn't made an error. That's a 1.000 fielding percentage. Blackmon and Hamilton are only separated by two errors, which is a marginal difference; but it's a difference voters will pay attention to. Using these measures, one can make a case for Blackmon, although that's true for at least four other NL center fielders, including Hamilton, A.J. Pollock, Andrew McCutchen, and Juan Lagares.
Blackmon hasn't separated himself in terms of SDI either. Through August 16, the last date SDI was updated, Blackmon ranked 11 out of 13 ranked center fielders. Not only that, but he has a negative rating, which hurts. According to SDI, Hamilton has been the best center fielder in the NL and Pollock the second best. Though a statistic like Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) isn't officially used to identify a winner, it's useful to refer to those rankings as well. Not incidentally, Blackmon ranks similarly in terms of DRS, ninth out of 11, as he does in SDI. Using that measure, Pollock has been the best NL center fielder and Hamilton the second best.
While Blackmon has had a fine season in center field, he has not done enough to distinguish himself from other center fielders when it comes to the Gold Glove race. It's a two-person race, and Blackmon is not one of them.
Prediction: Billy Hamilton (or maybe A.J. Pollock)
Carlos Gonzalez won a Gold Glove in left field for a season, 2012, when he was mediocre by traditional metrics and bad by advanced ones. This season, CarGo has been less than mediocre in terms of traditional metrics. His .973 fielding percentage ranks last among ten qualified right fielders, and his six errors are tied with Bryce Harper and Matt Kemp for the most in the NL. CarGo does have a big arm, but his seven assists is tied for fourth in the NL. Though even stubborn voters will recognize that the presence of a strong arm is also valuable because it keeps runners in place. Nevertheless, that assumption is unlikely to be enough to overcome the NL's most errors by a right fielder. Nick Markakis and Jay Bruce currently top the right field FP leaderboard.
Advanced metrics don't do CarGo any favors either. According to SDI, CarGo ranks 11 out of 13 right fielders, and his rating, like Blackmon's in center, is in the red. Curtis Granderson, 2014 Gold Glover Jason Heyward, and Jay Bruce top that list. If we look at DRS, however, CarGo's season in right field looks a lot better. He ranks third in the NL with eight runs saved. There's a problem though: the two players ahead of him are in the lead by a fair margin. Granderson is in second with 13 DRS, and Heyward is in first with 14. Additionally, those two players have the SDI advantage (at least as of August 16) as well.
For right field, fielding percentage is likely to play the least role of the positions covered here. Jay Bruce and Nick Markakis aren't having offensive seasons notable enough to highlight their defense, their traditional metric advantage isn't significant, and they won't do well in the quarter of the vote attributed to SDI. While Heyward is in the middle of the pack in terms of fielding percentage, he has an advantage in terms of SDI. He also excels at the eye test. Whether Heyward wins it or not, we can be pretty sure that it won't be Carlos Gonzalez.
Prediction: Jason Heyward (probably)
There are ten qualified second baseman through Saturday's games. According to traditional metrics, LeMahieu hasn't been great. In fielding percentage, he ranks sixth with a .988 mark. Joe Panik and Dee Gordon are tops in that category with .996 and .994 fielding percentages, respectively. LeMahieu has made eight errors, which is tied for third in the NL. Panik has made the least, with two. But we know that fielding percentage and errors are especially incomplete measures for infielders because it might end up penalizing players with better range and rewarding slow-footed but sure handed fielders.
According to SDI, LeMahieu has been better than his fielding percentage indicates. Through August 16, LeMahieu ranks third in the NL in SDI, behind Danny Espinosa and Addison Russell. Espinosa, however, might not qualify by the end of the season, and Russell has since moved to shortstop. Notably, Dee Gordon is not far behind LeMahieu in the SDI rankings. The distance between LeMahieu and first place is greater than it is between him and Gordon, who ranks two spots below LeMahieu at five.
Because of the time Panik has missed due to injury, the race will likely come down to Gordon and LeMahieu. It's fitting. Earlier this season, I noted that LeMahieu and Gordon were having similar seasons on offense, and they are close together on defense as well. LeMahieu will probably be penalized by voters for winning the award last season without following up with a transcendent one. Additionally, Gordon has a very loud speed tool that makes him more distinguishable from the beige LeMahieu.
Prediction: Dee Gordon (very likely)
If you need to read why, you're not paying attention. A flummoxed Casey McGehee will do.
Prediction: Nolan Arenado (obviously)