MLB announced today that catcher Pudge Rodriguez and second baseman Placido Polanco both won gold glove awards for 2007. It was the 13th gold glove for Rodriguez and the 1st for Polanco. Billfer feels neither was deserving of the award in 2007. Instead, he would have given awards to center fielder Curtis Granderson and third baseman Brandon Inge. He makes good cases on all accounts.
American League coaches and managers, who voted on the award, probably honored Rodriguez for his past success and reputation more than his 2007 contribution. Pudge's defense slipped significantly in 2007 as evidenced by a smaller percentage of runners thrown out in 2007 (51.0) versus 2006 (30.1). That percentage was 4th best in the league. A bigger problem was his difficulty in blocking pitches. He allowed only 7 passed balls but also contributed to a good number of the major league leading 75 wild pitches charged to the Tigers pitching staff. His 0.51 PB+WP per game ranked in the bottom three among major league catchers.
Polanco's award was more reasonable but not clear cut. He made it through the full season without making an error and finished second in the league in revised zone rating (RZR). However, Billfer points out that he did not rank as well on two other range stats: Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and +/- from the Bill James Baseball Handbook. A strong case could be made for either Mark Ellis or Aaron Hill.
Brandon Inge was likely overlooked because his .959 fielding percentage was near the bottom of the league for third basemen. However, Inge finished second in the league in RZR to Mike Lowell and finished well ahead of him (63 to 27) in plays made outside his zone. In addition, Inge led the league in UZR and +/- . All three of the range statistics penalize players for making errors making it pretty much unnecessary to consider fielding percentage in the evaluation. Overall, a strong very strong case can be made that he was deserving of the gold glove.
Curtis Granderson finished first in all of baseball, regardless of position, in revised zone rating at .921. He also finished second to Ichiro Suzuki in plays made outside his zone (97 to 85). Suzuki finished only 6th among center fielders in RZR. Other gold glove winners, Torri Hunter and Grady Sizemore finished 7th and 8th respectively. Granderson finished second to Sizemore in UZR while Suzuki ranked last among AL center fielders. Granderson also finished a close second to Coco Crisp in +/-. None of Sizemore, Hunter or Suzuki came close on that statistic.
One thing that the three range metrics do not address well is throwing arm. That is an area where Granderson does not excel but he is superior enough to the three award winners in range that throwing arm would probably not close the gap enough. The Hardball Times will likely address the throwing arm issue later in the winter as they did last year.
This is just the beginning of the discussion. As usual, I'll be talking a lot about fielding evaluation all winter.