To the common fan, or for fans that just look at the box score after each game, offense is the determining factor to how good or bad a player is. It is understandable for these fans to think that you need runs to win games. But that is not the case, at all. Being an elite level talent in the field can help teams to win games; sometimes, just one play changes the entire game.
For example, Charlie Blackmon is an elite hitter, and one of the best hitters in center field each year. Any team would love to have him batting leadoff in their lineup for his offensive ability. But when you look at his defensive ability, he was actually the worst rated defender in baseball. While offense usually outweighs defense, it would be ridiculous to overlook the value in a player’s defensive ability.
Reds Gold Glove Finalists
Since the start of the decade, the Reds have had 24 players nominated for Gold Glove Awards, including at least two every year. Out of those 24 finalists, seven have went on to win the award for their position.
Thursday, Rawlings announced the finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. In 2018, the Reds once again have two players nominated: Billy Hamilton, of course, and 2010 MVP and 2011 Gold Glove winner Joey Votto.
For Hamilton, it is his fifth consecutive season being named as a finalist. Despite being a finalist for the last five seasons, Hamilton has yet to win the award. In past years, he’s definitely deserved to have been named the winner at least once. 2018 poses a much tougher threat at his shot to grab the trophy. The other two finalists, Milwaukee Brewers’ Lorenzo Cain and Atlanta Braves’ Ender Inciarte, have had phenomenal defenses anchoring their team’s outfields.
Until recently, errors and fielding percentage have been the main two ways to judge a player’s skill in the field. Recently, sabermetrics have taken over as a much more detailed and in-depth way to rank each player defensively.
The most common measurement is UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). Per FanGraphs, UZR puts a run value to defense, attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess. For outfielders, it judges runs saved based on their arms, range and errors committed compared to the league average. Cain has an UZR of 8.7, followed by Inciarte at 7.2, with Hamilton in third at 5.9.
Another common sabermetric is DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). Per FanGraphs, Total Defensive Runs Saved indicates how many runs a player saved or hurt his team in the field compared to the average player at his position. For outfielders, it is based on preventing runners to advance to any base, robbing home runs, and ability to get outs on balls in play. Cain has 20 and Inciarte has 17, while Hamilton sits at just 4.
While UZR and DRS are not the end-all be-all, most other sabermetrics will have the players ranked similarly. Cain and Inciarte lead Hamilton in most every sabermetric. It is unlikely he will win in his fifth attempt, but the phenomenal center fielder will see a Gold Glove on his mantle before his career is over.
For Votto, it is his third nomination for the Gold Glove Award. He already has one under his belt in his first two tries. Votto used to be a part of the most dominant and entertaining right sides of the infield, alongside four-time Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips. Having Phillips to his right every day caused people to often forget how skilled Votto was with the glove.
Votto will have stiff competition as well, but that is to be expected considering he is up against the two other best first basemen in the league. Defensively, of course — no disrespect to Paul Goldschmidt. Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, like Votto, is a one-time recipient of the Gold Glove Award in 2016. Braves’ Freddie Freeman is the only finalist without a Gold Glove, but that could change in 2018.
When it comes to UZR, Freeman is the leader at 7.8, followed by Votto at 5.3, 2 points ahead of the third place finisher Rizzo at 3.3. Freeman, similar to Cain, leads in DRS as well at 12, and Votto, like Inciarte, finished in second with 9. Rizzo dropped three spots to sixth. With the baseball continuing to trend in the direction of sabermetrics, it is looking good for Freeman, but anything can happen in baseball.
Can They Catch One?
Whether or not the Reds are able to lock up another Gold Glove or two, it is an honor to be named a finalist. To be honored as one of the elite defenders in a difficult game at the professional level is special. The winners will be announced November 4, and hopefully Votto will win his second and Hamilton can finally hear his name called.