Gold Glove vs. UZR (NL Edition)

Yesterday, I took a look at the American League Gold Glove recipients vs. the UZR leaders for the AL at each position. This time, I'll take a look at the National League awards. Here was the list:

Player Team Position
Adam Wainright STL P
Yadier Molina STL C
Adrian Gonzalez STL 1B
Orlando Hudson LAN 2B
Ryan Zimmerman WAS 3B
Jimmy Rollins PHI SS
Matt Kemp LAN OF
Michael Bourn HOU OF
Shane Victorino PHI OF

 

The rules are the same as yesterday: I'll take the 2009 bUZR leader and the Gold Glove winner and compare them using a three-year weighted Marcels projection, using 75% UZR and 25% Fans Scouting Report. I regressed 75 defensive games of average for infielders, 100 games for outfielders, and 125 games for catchers. For any players with a lack of playing time the previous year, I passed up on them and moved on to the next player on the UZR leaderboards. No pitchers were measured. Let's dive right on in.

First off, the recipients of the Gold Glove awards.

Player Position Defense
Yadier Molina C +7
Adrian Gonzalez 1B +1
Orlando Hudson 2B -1
Ryan Zimmerman 3B +12
Jimmy Rollins SS +7
Matt Kemp OF +2
Michael Bourn OF +6
Shane Victorino OF +4

 

Without looking at any other lists or numbers, it would seem to me that the voters nabbed a few pretty good choices. Molina is well renowned among the Fans as the best defensive catcher in the game, and now he has added a reasonable bat to the comparison as well, making him a very good player. The voters nabbed the best third baseman in the National League in Ryan Zimmerman, who had an excellent bounceback season after consecutive injury-plagued campaigns in 2007 and 2008. It is difficult to argue with Rollins at shortstop, as he has consistently been one of the best shortstops in the National League and has posted an above average UZR total over the three year span measured here. The outfield is solid as well, though Victorino is helped by the fact that he primarily played right field in 2007 and posted very good numbers that season; my lack of positional adjustments helped his weighted average.

The only position with a major question mark is second base, where Orlando Hudson won despite a projected defensive contribution of one run below average. UZR has had him at -5 runs per 150 games over the last three seasons, but because of the Fans vote, his tally became a much more bearable -1 run per 150 games. Still, the combined method has him as a below average fielder, and below average fielders definitely should not be winning these awards, especially given the alternatives in the National League.

The Numbers Guys

Here are the guys I selected for comparison from the UZR leaderboards.

Player Team Position Defense
David Ross ATL C +2
Derrek Lee CHN 1B +4
Chase Utley PHI 2B +13
Casey Blake LAN 3B +1
Jack Wilson PIT SS +6
Mike Cameron MIL OF +6
Randy Winn SFG OF +9
Nyjer Morgan PIT/WAS OF +17
Tony Gwynn, Jr. SDP OF +8

 

As I did yesterday, I presented four outfielders for consideration as well. However, only Cameron played center field exclusively over the three year span, so again, defensive contributions in the corner outfield positions were weighed evenly with those in center.

The one egregious error is the one we all immediately noticed and sort of knew was coming. Chase Utley was shut out of an award again despite being the UZR plus positional adjustment leader over the 2007-2009 time period. Last season, Utley was shut out by Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips, who also rated very well over this three-year span thanks to comparable UZR totals. Nevertheless, neither player took home the award, as Hudson shelves his third Gold Glove in four years.

Another point of contention was perhaps the voting of Adrian Gonzalez over Albert Pujols, not listed above. Among qualifying first basemen, Gonzalez and Derrek Lee were essentially tied at +4 runs in UZR, but Lee rated a bit better than Gonzalez thanks to better three-year UZR totals. It's worth noting of course that  Pujols projected at +8 runs at first base, pacing both players.

The final disagreement may lie in the ridiculous season that Nyjer Morgan posted in 2009. Morgan is the only player listed in either this article or the previous one that had no Fans Scouting Report data incorporated; his projection was strictly using UZR. Typically I would have tossed him out of the exercise, but his season was anomalously good that I just had to include him to see how he compared. His +17 projected/regressed runs tops the National League but was very heavily influenced by this year's UZR totals.

The rest of the field is mostly clean. If I had to make replacements to the given list, I would knock Victorino and Kemp out and replace them with Morgan and Mike Cameron. I would also put Pujols and Utley in the place of Gonzalez and Hudson. But getting half of them close to right is not bad given the weak methodology the coaches use to select these players. They can't always be wrong, of course.

Conclusion

The voters this season were not bad, but they did make some large errors in judgment at certain positions in both ballots. But again, the method for choosing these players is so flippant that it is a surprise when the results come out halfway decent. Overall, I would say that the Gold Glove awards this season nailed six out of 16 positions (not including pitchers, which they might have gone 1-for-2 on), with two more positions being "good enough" in that the regressed numbers show two or more players who were very close at the top, one of whom was selected for the Gold Glove. Maybe if they ever updated the process, the voters could get an even better percentage correctly. Until then, however, this award will mostly remain a joke due to the large misses and the weak methodology.

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