Derek Jeter and Gold Gloves: The Love Affair Continues

10 11 2010

The voters must have taken the number of Derek Jeter fist pumps into account when voting for Gold Glove awards over the past decade.

Posted by BaconSlayer09

It truly amazes me how much of a joke the Gold Glove awards have turned into. Maybe it’s because I’m biased since there’s sabermetric stats out there that can disprove the eye, but even some of the more traditional fans out there will agree that Derek Jeter shouldn’t be winning Gold Gloves anymore. I mean seriously, the guy hit .270 last year  with one of worst OPS figures in his career and he still wins a Gold Glove? If that’s all the offensive production you need to win one of these things, maybe Jhonny Peralta should be considered too. Sarcasm aside, the award has turned into a reputation contest. If Derek Jeter plays next year and puts up even worse numbers, my bet is that he somehow wins the damn thing again. Is there a way to fix it? Well, maybe we should start off by making Derek Jeter retire, that might be a good start. The good news here is that Franklin Gutierrez, UZR extraordinaire,  finally got awarded for being one of the best defenders in baseball. The voters do get some of these things right, like Evan Longoria, Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Joe Mauer, etc. These guys are some of the best defensive players at their respective positions. However, even if you mess one of these up, people will complain. Are we, the people, being nitpicky? Maybe, but we just want to see justice served. To make myself, and hopefully you, feel better, I’m going to be handing out the Sabermetric Gold Glove Awards today, but don’t get too excited, this post will only contain the AL winners.

American League

Catcher: Matt Wieters (BAL) – You may be wondering, why not Joe Mauer? There is no easy answer to this question, as it’s truly hard to defend a catcher’s defense using statistics. There is one statistic though – Stolen Base Runs (rSB). John Dewan’s Plus/Minus (Defensive Runs Saved) keeps track of how many runs a catcher has saved by throwing out base runners. Wieters led the American League in this category in 2010. Mauer finished at -1 in rSB. I have nothing against Mauer, he’s also a very good defensive catcher. But from fan scouting reports and rSB, Wieters definitely had a very good season. Runner-ups:  Joe Mauer, Jose Molina, and A.J. Pierzynski.

First Base: Daric Barton (OAK) – Daric Barton led all of baseball in first base Ultimate Zone Rating at 12.1. Barton also made a dazzling 51 scoops at 1B, most likely saving Cliff Pennington, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Mark Ellis from committing numerous errors. He led the league in Zone Rating, as well as plays made out of his zone. With the combination of sure-handedness and range, Barton is one of the premiere defensive first basemen in baseball. Runner-ups: Justin Morneau, Justin Smoak, and Carlos Pena.

Kouzmanoff is far from a house-hold name, but statistically speaking, he is one of the best 3B in the AL.

Second Base: Orlando Hudson (MIN) – After numerous off-years defensively, the O-Dog stepped up his game after returning to the American League. Hudson and J.J. Hardy helped anchor the Minnesota Twins infield, one of the better best in all of baseball. Hudson’s 9.8 UZR and 17 defensive runs saved are both tops at his position in the American League. Hudson showed incredible range (9.6 range runs and 36 out of zone plays) while showcasing his reliability (2.3 error runs and a .824 zone rating). A close second was Mark Ellis, who actually topped Hudson in UZR. However, considering Ellis had one of the best defensive 1B in baseball to throw to while Hudson had to deal with Michael Cuddyer for half a season, it became apparent that Hudson was more deserving. Runner-ups: Mark Ellis, Dustin Pedroia, and Aaron Hill.

Third Base: Evan Longoria (TBR) – This was one of the hardest decisions to make while writing this article. The American League has three very, very, good defensive 3B. Those three are Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, and Kevin Kouzmanoff. To some of you, the first two names make sense, but who the hell is Kevin Kouzmanoff, you may ask. Kouzmanoff led all AL 3B in UZR, about 6 runs better than both Longoria and Beltre. However, DRS said that Longoria and Kouzmanoff were pretty much similar at 13 defensive runs saved. Here is where the reputation game starts. Kouzmanoff is a nobody, I haven’t seen many of his games and I don’t think many of you have either. Thus, I had to get some input. So I went to FanGraphs and found Tom Tango’s fan scouting reports. They read something like this – Longoria was the best of the 3 at a rating of 86 (extremely good), Beltre was second at 77 and Kouzmanoff went last at 58 (still a decent rating). So after some thought, I decided to give the award to Longoria. Slightly biased? Probably, but you can’t go wrong with either of the three. Runner-ups: Adrian Beltre, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Jose Lopez.

Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez (CHW) – Contrary to the previous award, this decision was one of the easiest. In just one season, Alexei Ramirez transformed himself into one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball, if not the best. The Cuban Missile led the American League in Shortstop UZR (10.1) as well as Defensive Runs Saved (16). After being criticized for being inconsistent and somewhat “baseball-stupid”, Ramirez cut down his mental mistakes in 2010 and delivered some of the most amazing range I have ever seen (67 plays made out of his zone).  What about the glorious Derek Jeter? Let’s just say he made about half of the out of zone plays Ramirez did and had a UZR that was 15 runs worse. Runner-ups: Cliff Pennington, J.J. Hardy, and Elvis Andrus.

Ramirez's strong arm and great range make him one of the best shortstops in the game.

Left Field: Carl Crawford (TBR) – This was another tough decision. Gardner or Crawford? Crawford or Gardner? Thank goodness we have the stats on our side. Oh wait, they say these two are pretty much the same. Crawford did lag behind Gardner in UZR by about 4 runs, but DRS said they were virtually the same fielders. The great thing about Plus/Minus is that their components are easier to see and understand. Crawford had a lot more balls hit to him in his zone (263 as opposed to Gardner’s 168). Crawford also had a better zone rating, put two and two together and the answer is that Crawford had more chances and also capitalized on those chances at a better rate. Making him a lot more valuable to the Rays’ defense than Gardner was for the Yankees. Therefore, Crawford is the victor, but only by a tiny margin. Runner-ups: Brett Gardner, Juan Pierre, and Josh Hamilton.

Center Field: Franklin Gutierrez (SEA) – Like the case with Crawford and Gardner, Gutierrez did not lead the AL in center fielder’s UZR. Julio Borbon did and Coco Crisp was a close second. Gutierrez was third, but that’s not the entire story. Gutierrez was one of the best in DRS and he had by far the most amount of fly balls hit to him (Seattle had lots of fly ball pitchers). His zone rating and out of zone plays also weren’t extremely staggering. All in all, this was a great year for American League center fielders, but Gutierrez’s reputation and talent almost makes some of the UZR and DRS data pointless. For example, Coco Crisp was second in UZR in CF, but he only played about a half of the innings Gutierrez played. Julio Borbon led the AL in CF UZR and he only played there for 1000 innings. Therefore, some of that data could be flawed based on sample size. Say whatever you like, but I just have to give the award to Gutierrez. Runner-ups: Julio Borbon, Austin Jackson, and Alex Rios.

Austin Jackson's great rookie campaign was aided by his great defense in center field.

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki (SEA) – We’re almost finished, but we’re not quite there yet. Can you imagine watching Gutierrez and Ichiro playing defense in the same outfield? I’m jealous of Seattle fans sometimes, but then I remember their inability to score runs and erase that idea completely out of my head. Ichiro, at the old age of 36, was still able to cover a lot of ground (17 range runs) and make a number of great plays (95 out of zone plays). The future hall-of-famer ended the season with an impressive 15.6 UZR and +12 DRS, both tops in the AL at his position. Runner-ups: Nelson Cruz, J.D. Drew, and Ben Zobrist.

There you have it. By my count, the actual voters got the entire outfield correct, but they definitely didn’t do a great job of evaluating the left side of the infield. Plus, let’s not forget about our buddy Derek Jeter. Hopefully, the Gold Glove awards can mean something again in the near future. Until then, I hope these selections can keep you sane. The NL edition will be coming up shortly.

Note: My opinions are not the opinions of every writer here at Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors. If you have hate mail or just want to make fun of me for using nerdy stats, please send all hate mail to BaconSlayer09.

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2011: The Class of Carl Crawford

26 08 2010

Posted by cubs223425

In the offseason following the Yankees’ return to the top of the baseball world, the free agent hitting class lacked a sort of pizzazz (or as the bland may call it, depth).  Granted, there were a few secondary names on the market (Jason Bay, Chone Figgins–both who have flamed out), along with a few surprises (Adrian Beltre’s remembering what sport this is, Marlon Byrd’s anti-Bradley impact). Whether you were in favor of the contract he got or not (I was not), Matt Holliday was the clear-cut prize among the free agent bats last winter.

Holliday turned a stellar stint with the Cardinals (168 OPS+) into a ludicrous 7-year deal worth $120 million guaranteed (that can become 8/$136 million). Maybe this deal doesn’t look so puzzling in a market other than this past one, but the man had one legitimate suitor that would realistically fork over the money. The St. Louis Cardinals paid a premium for a premium talent in a not-so-premium market. Many teams were unable to spend big money, and even fewer had a desire to spend that much money on Holliday. Now, this deal has set the table for the biggest free agent hitter on the market after the 2010 season, Carl Crawford.

Like Holliday, Crawford is an elite left fielder, with the only other left fielder that can hold his own with Crawford’s astounding numbers being Texas’ Josh Hamilton, who we have seen can get hurt or fall on his face almost at will. Unlike Holliday, Crawford is a top-of-the-order hitter with super-human speed and an even better glove (a +22.1 UZR this season). So, how will Crawford’s contract stack up to that of Matt Holliday? Well, let’s compare the two:

Matt Holliday: Holliday was originally seen as a product of Coors Field, and not a whole lot more. The rugged start to his tenure in Oakland did little to quell the naysayers, and he was sent packing to St. Louis for a package centered around Brett Wallace (who was then sent to Toronto, then to Houston). That’s when it all changed. His defense was kind of rough at times (see: 2009 playoffs, 2010 All-Star game), but his bat was unquestionably destructive. What he did for the RedBirds put most of his Colorado work to shame, blasting 13 homers and rounding almost as many bases in 63 games with St. Louis (142) as he did with Oakland in 93 games (157). His .353/.419/.604 slash was monstrous, good for a 1.023 OPS.

Thanks to a stellar second half after being traded to the Cardinals in 2009, Matt Holliday was able to score a mega deal with the Cardinals, despite being a part of a relatively weak free agent class.

Now, in 2010, his numbers have simmered. His 168 OPS+ has dropped to 139 (his 2009 total, near his 133 career OPS+). At the time, though, he did more than enough to earn the big bucks as a free agent, and he definitely squeezed the Cardinals (who still have to worry about the Pujols negotiation) for every penny.

Carl Crawford: Crawford has seen his overall numbers take a rather odd turn. His slugging is up .021 (.452 to .473), but his OBP is down .015 (.364 to .349), meaning just a .006 rise in OPS+. But one must also account for the fact that his team has been on the losing end of 2 no-hitters this season, along with the league-wide dominance of pitchers this season. Now, that Crawford’s numbers have changed is not so much odd as that a #2 hitter is putting more over the wall and stealing fewer bases (though he’s still on a 162-game pace of 53.3).

According to UZR, Carl Crawford is the best defensive player in all of baseball.

Crawford has kept one thing consistent, though–his stellar defense. He is by far the best fielder in the game this season, with a +22.1 UZR (yes, that’s his UZR, not his UZR/150!). It is a 9.3 drop to second place, which belongs to Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce. The second-highest UZR among left fielder is an enormous drop to Juan Pierre’s +9.4 (a 12.7 drop). So, his UZR doubles that of the next-closest competition in left.

Where does all of this put Crawford in terms of a payday? It can be hard to say.

On one hand, you can argue that his bat doesn’t qualify him for as big of a payday as Holliday got. While the latter has a career 133 OPS+, Crawford’s got a somewhat surprisingly low 105 OPS+ for his career (though it sits at 120 this season). His place in the batting order does keep him from hitting in a lot of RBI situations, but he scores a lot of runs.

On the flip side, you have easily the best position player on the market. It just so happens he is the best fielder in baseball as well. You are getting an elite defender and base stealer, and while he may not be the masher Holliday is, he fits into either the 1- or 2-hole just fine, due to a high batting average, OBP, and buckets of steals. Either way, what he brings to the table is not the only deciding factor.

Last offseason, Holliday was it. Sure, you had Jason Bay there as well, but he was older, on bad knees, and a butcher in the field (that was masked by the Green Moster, which kept his lack of range from showing). After those two, you were staring into the abyss of Mark DeRosa and Mike Cameron, two players that have fallen well short of expectations. Now, after the 2010 season, the options are much better.

Crawford is still the cream of the crop, but you take a look immediately down, and you still have a dangerous Jayson Werth as a more than capable consolation prize. Even the next tier in this class is better. Some of the other outfielders available include Manny Ramirez, Aubrey Huff, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez (who was hitting well before injury), Austin Kearns, and Jose Guillen. This crop of talent could keep Crawford from getting an insane deal, as could teams’ unwillingness to spend big like in the past. But with these added free agents comes an added need to fill those spots, and the list of suitors for Crawford is long.

Yankees: They always have money, even when you think they don’t.

Rays: Who know? Maybe they actually give out a big contract for once, since they are slashing Pena’s money from the payroll.

Angels: Seen as the favorite to sign him in many circles, even with Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu there, plus the up-and-coming Peter Bourjos.

Red Sox: Mike Cameron hasn’t worked out, and Mike Lowell and David Ortiz could both be off of the books

Those are just the beginning. All of these things–his production, Holliday’s production, the production of other free agents, money, and need–are all major factors in this contract. What will he get? Who knows? What should he get? I have a reasonable idea.

If I am Crawford, I do not even consider taking less money than Holliday. With so many big market teams in the hunt for him (Yankees, Red Sox, Angels), Crawford should not be afraid to call a team’s bluff. Even if he were to do so and strike out with one, you have at least two other teams with deep pockets to go to.

To be more specific, I think he should start at one of three places:

1. Take Holliday’s deal, and add $1 million on for each of the seven season, plus the option year and buyout. This takes the deal to 7 years at $18 million annually, plus another $18 million option for 2018, with a $2 million buyout. So, this adds up to a deal worth $128 million guaranteed, which is fair if you consider Holliday got near that in a relatively barren market. Otherwise:

2. Take the same deal as Holliday–including the $17 million annual salary–and tack on another year. Make it a deal with eight guaranteed years and an option for a ninth.  The deal is guaranteed eight years and $137 million, with the potential for nine years and $153 million. What’s behind door number 3?

3. Keep the same deal as option two, but without the option year. It is still a solid eight years and $136 million, more than enough to feed his family.

Crawford’s camp likely would want the second option, because it guarantees the most money, but teams would likely prefer the first option, because it contains the least amount of money. So, take the middle ground and choose option three. The team gets a good hitter, a great runner, and a transcendent fielder, and Crawford gets the biggest deal any outfielder will be offered in free agency for a while.

So, there it is–my first topic covered and a way Crawford gets the cheddar he deserves.