The Tigers didn't show us a lot of defense this year, but two players - catcher Alex Avila and Austin Jackson are among the finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards which will be announced on Tuesday night. The voting is done by managers and coaches and seem to be based on hitting ability and reputation as much as actual fielding performance. I'm not sure how seriously these awards should be taken, but they are good point for discussion.
Avila is officially competing with Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, Yankees receiver Russell Martin and White Sox backstop AJ Pierzynski. Who should win it? I believe a catcher should play in at least half his team's games in order to qualify, so that narrows it to only eight American League catchers.
Among the eight qualifiers, Wieters led the league with a 39% caught stealing percentage. Rays catcher Jose Molina was second at 33%. Avila's 30% rate was better than the league of average of 25%. Both Martin and Pierzynski were right around average.
About a week before the end of the season, I did an analysis looking at runs saved by catchers based on stolen bases, caught stealing, passed balls , wild pitches, fielding errors and throwing errors. I doubt things changed much in the final week, so I'll leave it at that for now. Wieters was the league leader at +9 runs saved. Among qualifying catchers, Avila was next at +3. Martin and Pierzynski both cost their teams runs according to that analysis.
According to Tom Tango's fan scouting report, which some of you participated in, Wieters is regarded most highly by fans (78 points) with Joe Mauer a distant second among qualifiers at 69. Avila and Martin are slightly above average and Pierzynski is near the bottom. So, it's hard to see how Pierzynski is a candidate.
Based on all of the above, I'm going with Wieters as my American League Gold Glove catcher.
Now for center field. Jackson is officially battling with Adam Jones of the Orioles and Mike Trout of the Angels. There are 11 AL players with 100 or more games played in center field which seems like a fair cutoff. Jackson, Jones and Trout all qualify.
Trout led all center fielders on the Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) statistic with +23 runs saved followed by Denard Span of the Twins at +20. Austin Jackson was +5 and Jones -16. The Ultimate Zone Rating Statistic has Tout at +11, Span +8 and Jackson +4 as the top three among qualifiers. Jones is at the bottom of the league with -16.
Finally, the Baseball Prospectus Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) statistic has Jackson and Trout at +9 , Jones with +6 and Span with 0. So, Trout appears to be the consensus favorite based on the numbers, but Jackson is also above average across the board. Jones, on the other hand, is all over the place.
The Fan Scouting Report says that Trout (80 points) and Jackson (78 points) are the two best defenders among the qualifiers and nobody else is close.
So, it comes down to Trout and Jackson. The numbers give Trout somewhat of an edge, but remember that Trout split time in center and left and that Jason had 27 more starts than Trout as a center fielder. You can go either way, but I'm selecting Jackson as my Gold Glove center fielder.