On Sunday, when Brenton Doyle won the National League Center Field Rawlings Gold Glove, he made history, becoming the first NL rookie outfielder ever to win the prestigious award.
He also became the second Rockie — Nolan Arenado was the first — to win a Gold Glove as a rookie. And he joined Larry Walker and Carlos González as the only Colorado Rockies outfielders ever to win this award.
People who have not been paying attention to the the rookie’s outstanding season were skeptical, as the replies to this tweet illustrate.
So, for those who have not been keeping up with the best center fielder in baseball, here’s a quick explainer.
Doyle had the highest Fielding Run Value (21) of any MLB player; his 16 Outs Above Average were the most for any center fielder; he had 19 Defensive Runs Saved, again, the most for any centerfielder and fourth overall; and his Ultimate Zone Rating of 24.5 was by far the best of any MLB player. Add to that his Arm Strength (96.1, sixth in MLB) and Arm Value (7 Fielder Runs, second only to Nolan Jones), and you’re beginning to get a sense of just how extraordinary his rookie campaign was. Added to all that, he made just one error in 348 attempts (.997 Fielding Percentage).
And did I mention that he accumulated these numbers while spending half of his games patrolling Coors Field, the most-challenging outfield in MLB?
So, yes, he earned this award.
Doyle, however, was modest about his accomplishment.
“Definitely just super honored, even to be considered as a finalist” he said. “As a rookie and a guy like me that’s come from a small school [Shepherd University] and small background, it’s definitely a rewarding feeling, and a lot of my hard work throughout the season definitely paid off.”
In a new twist on on the Coors Effect, however, Doyle sees the expansive outfield as giving him a defensive advantage on the road.
“Just having Coors the size [it is] and the gaps it has make a lot of fields seem tiny,” Doyle said.
“It’s crazy, but we would go to some of these fields, and I’m like, ‘Geez, it looks like Nolan or Charlie or whoever is playing next to me is right next to me. I can easily cover whatever is hit over there, no matter how hard it’s hit or whatever.’”
He added, “I love having Coors as our home field because it definitely betters my skillset.”
His rookie season is a highlight reel of gravity-defying catches though he’s quick to select a favorite — not from Coors Field but rather Fenway Park.
Here’s how he remembers it:
So I think it was Pablo Reyes hitting at the time, and I was shifted towards right field. He hits a pretty scorching line drive, just to left to center field.
But keep in mind, I’m pretty shifted over to right. And it’s one of those where if I don’t make this catch, it might be an inside-the-parker because [of] how deep it gets in center field. So it was a pretty do-or-die catch.
And it was funny because it kind of got lost in the light there for the last second, and the only reason I knew I made [the catch] is because I felt it hit my pocket. And it was just a pretty surreal catch, especially at Fenway. I mean, the history of that ballpark, and they’re notorious for their fans there, and to hear some applause from their fans, even from diehard Red Sox fans, as an away team was pretty cool.
See for yourself:
Notice in this clip how Austin Gomber looks on in wonder. For Doyle, those kinds of responses from his teammates are a highlight.
“Part of my favorite is just the reactions of my teammates whenever I make plays like that. That’s the biggest thing,” Doyle said.
“The reactions of some of the pitchers after these big double play, catch-’em, throw-’em out are priceless and memories I’ll keep for a long time.”
Plus, he knows that effective defense can change the momentum of a game.
“Good defense can often lead to good offense,” he said. “You make a really good play to end an inning, or you make a big momentum-swing play that may have saved a run or something, and guys feed off that kind of energy, even on offense.”
In addition to his skill and hard work, two factors contributed to Doyle’s success. The first is working with his fellow outfielders, especially Nolan Jones.
“Whether it’s throwing people out left and right or making good grabs in the outfield,” Doyle said.
But the two outfielders keep each other loose.
“We joke around a lot. We have a lot of fun. We have a lot of inside jokes,” Doyle said. “So just keeping loose out there definitely helps us play a lot more freely and fun.”
Second, Doyle sees the Rockies’ belief in his abilities as key.
“Everyone there had some faith in me and stuck me in the lineup pretty consistently, and just seeing my name in that lineup, no matter where I was hitting or anything like that,” Doyle said, “it definitely gave me a lot of confidence, and that transferred to the field.”
He added, “I had a lot of great talks with Bud, and he really gave me the assurance and confidence that no matter how I’m hitting at the plate right now, he’s confident in putting me out there just because of the how many runs and stuff I save defensively. And he wants me to go through those struggles.”
Currently, Doyle is at home in Northern Virginia enjoying the offseason with his wife and daughter. But he’s beginning to think about 2024.
“I actually started doing some baseball stuff a couple weeks back and really love the offseason grind,” he said, “getting back in there, putting some weight back on because running a lot in center field Coors, you lose quite a bit of weight.”
(Actually, he lost 20 lbs. last season.)
So to all the skeptics out there, just admit it: Doyle rules.
The most interesting thing I saw on social media last week
Check out this graphic from MLB’s Instagram showing the five teams that have not yet won a World Series. Notice that four of the players are well known faces of the franchise. For the Rockies, it’s not Kris Bryant or Charlie Bryant. Instead, it’s Nolan Jones — as it should be.
There’s a new Nolan in LoDo, folks.
(By the way, he should have been a Rookie of the Year finalist.)
Chris Gilligan cuts to the chase in this discussion of the five teams yet to win a World Series: “Let’s get one thing out of the way: it won’t be the Rockies.” His analysis is worth reading (because he’s not wrong).
On Thursday, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo held their postseason presser. The World Series had ended the night before, and both were processing the loss. Still, they sat at the table for an hour and took questions.
Watching the video is worth your time as Hazen made clear — in concrete terms — the D-backs’ offseason plans. He also took responsibility for his failures as a general manager, the most obvious being his failure to acquire a starting pitcher at the trade deadline.
Lovullo was equally candid. “I didn’t do my job well enough to help us win a World Series,” he said. “And I want to do that. I want to do that for everybody in this in this community and this state. So I’m sorry. And I’m going to learn, and I’m going to die trying to win a world championship as a manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. That’s my promise to them.”
It’s a stark contrast to the Rockies’ approach.
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