By Scott Barzilla

Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Look at me, I can be center field.” — John Fogerty

Center field and shortstop are the ultimate positions in baseball. Heck, Fogerty’s effort wasn’t the only song reference to center field. You have “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke” and Simon and Garfunkel’s ode to Joe DiMaggio in Mrs. Robinson. So, obviously there is a lot of attention paid to those guys.

Rawlings gives them more than their fair share of attention as two and three center fielders usually pull in the Gold Gloves every season. That being said, there are enough worthy candidates to give out two or three awards per league. You could certainly argue that center fielders are considerably more valuable than right and left fielders.

  Team INN +/- RS UZR/150 DWAR
Matt Kemp Dodgers 1380 -6 1 -4.7 1.0
Chris Young Dbacks 1373 13 6 12.9 1.8
Michael Bourn 2 Teams 1359 -1 -1 -6.2 1.4
Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox 1358 14 6 15.7 0.4
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 1353 11 7 3.3 0.7
Curtis Granderson Yankees 1348 -34 -15 -5.3 -0.2
Drew Stubbs Reds 1329 -16 -4 -2.2 -1.0
B.J. Upton Rays 1326 -10 -5 1.6 0.0
Adam Jones Orioles 1281 -35 -9 -8.5 -1.7
Peter Bourjos Angels 1269 24 21 8.1 1.4
Melky Cabrera Royals 1265 -8 -3 -9.7 -1.9
Austin Jackson Tigers 1264 30 22 8.0 0.7
Alex Rios White Sox 1230 -13 -7 -7.4 -0.5
Cameron Maybin Padres 1173 19 12 11.6 0.1
Shane Victorino Phillies 1150 -1 1 5.7 0.5
Coco Crisp Athletics 1134 2 0 -6.7 -0.1
Colby Rasmus 2 Teams 1092 0 1 -10.7 -0.7
Dexter Fowler Rockies 1072 -3 -4 -6.8 -1.3
Angel Pagan Mets 1045 1 1 -16.1 -1.7
Marlon Byrd Cubs 998 -8 -2 3.0 0.2
Jon Jay Cardinals 989 24 14 -0.7 -0.4
Rick Ankiel Nationals 845 12 6 8.5 1.7

American League

The American League race is a battle royale between Peter Bourjos and Austin Jackson. They are nearly identical in every category. They played almost the exact same number of innings, early nearly the same number of ultimate zone runs and almost the same number of runs saved according to the Fielding Bible data. Now, you can see the thinking of those that want to give it to more than one center fielder.

Sabermetric Gold Glove: Peter Bourjos (LA Angels)

The DWAR is the separating factor because the other two categories are a dead heat. Bourjos had a big lead in August, but the presence of Mike Trout reduced his playing time just enough to allow Jackson to catch up. However, Jackson will win the consolation prize of his own Gold Glove.

Actual Gold Gloves: Peter Bourjos and Austin Jackson (Detroit Tigers)

Okay, I’m holding out hope that both guys will be rewarded for terrific play and then Brett Gardner will get the third trophy. If you were to give it to the three best outfielders then those would be the guys. Typically, the voters do a lot better when picking outfielders than when they pick infielders, so this actually has a decent chance of being the result.

Worst Glove: Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees)

It’s sad that the Yankees have Granderson and Gardner together as they almost end up canceling each other out. As it turns out, Gardner has to poach on Granderson’s territory to cover for his lack of range. It makes you wonder what would happen if they switched the two. I guess we will probably never know.

National League

This is a league where the voters have their guys and those guys will probably be the winners again. Unfortunately, those guys aren’t necessarily the best fielders at the position this year. Of course, you have heard that one before and you will hear it again. It’s a big theme with the Gold Glove voting.

Sabermetric Gold Glove: Cameron Maybin (San Diego Padres)

This one was brutally close as Maybin and Chris Young both dominated their own categories. Maybin was better in the Fielding Bible data while Young took him to school on DWAR. The two were close on UZR, so I simply went with a personal presence. I like John Dewan’s Fielding Bible, so I chose Maybin. One could just as easily go with Young.

Actual Gold Gloves: Michael Bourn (Atlanta Braves), Shane Victorino (Philadelphia Phillies)

Again, what guys did in the past really shouldn’t matter. I love watching Michael Bourn play and I’m sure he will bounce back, but he just didn’t get to as many balls this year as he has in the past. As for Victorino, he is certainly solid, but he has never been a great fielder. I’m not quite sure where the mystique comes from.

Worst Glove: Drew Stubbs (Cincinnati Reds)

Baseball-reference actually likes Stubbs, so take this one for what it is worth. There are few bad center fielders in the National League. If we were going to break all rules we would put Adam Jones here because Granderson deserves some company.

 

 

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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Filed under: MLB, SABR


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