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Gold Glove Selection To Change

Per Bob Dutton, Kansas City Star (by way Lone Star Ball, by way of MLB Daily Dish, by way of Buster Olney):

Balloting this season for the Rawlings Gold Glove awards, which recognize defensive excellence, will for the first time not lump all outfielders together in balloting by managers and coaches.

The new approach will select a left fielder, a center fielder and a right fielder – and candidates at each position will be limited to those who play a specific number of games at that position.

No word anywhere on what the specific number of games is, that I can find.

This is not just a good idea, it's an absurdly obvious one that should have been enacted the moment the award was thought up. Centerfield is a much more difficult, impactful, and valuable position than the corner spots. Tom Tango's research suggests a left or right fielder moving to the middle could be expected to cost his team around 10 more runs in 150 games; not a tiny number. Even without some fancy stat research, we know very well this matches conventional wisdom about the defensive spectrum.

So why has the Gold Glove always ignored this? They don't hand out "middle infield" Gold Gloves, holding second basemen to the same standard as shortstops. It is very hard for the best corner outfielder to be better than the third best centerfielder simply because if he is, he is likely going to be playing centerfield. So either the award, previously, should just have gone to only centerfielders, or corner outfielders should have been given it based on silliness without actually being the best outfielders (the latter is what happened).

Now, corner outfielders can be recognized as being among the best at their positions without also taking the award from people playing well at a much more difficult position.

Of course, this doesn't mean the award will be respectable. It still maintains its biggest issue: voting by managers. They have no reason to take the award seriously, their job does not involve actually heavily scouting or quantifying every fielder in Major League Baseball, and they clearly do not bother with either given past results. As Olney points out, defensive metrics are out there, including those kept by the very teams the managers are employed by. They could take it seriously and talk to their GMs, or Rawlings could take it seriously and hand voting over to front offices. In the mean time, however, while this change in voting makes a ton of sense, it does not save the Gold Glove from being baseball's most laughable major award.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.