Major League Baseball released finalists for the 2013 Gold Glove Awards on Thursday, and five Dodgers were deemed among the top three at their position in the National League. Third baseman Juan Uribe leads the Los Angeles contingent for baseball's top official fielding honor.
- Pitcher: Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Adam Wainwright
- Catcher: A.J. Ellis, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina
- First base: Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo
- Second base: Mark Ellis, Brandon Phillips, Darwin Barney
- Third base: Uribe, Nolan Arenado, David Wright
The Gold Glove Awards have been awarded since 1956 and have traditionally been voted on by managers and up to six coaches from each team in the corresponding league, with the caveat of not being able to vote for players on your own team.
This year, the Gold Gloves incorporated a sabermetric component that will account for 25 percent of the vote. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com explains:
A committee of experts in baseball analytics and defensive measurement devised the SABR Defensive Index (SDI), which draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted balls, location-based data, and those collected from play-by-play accounts.
The three metrics representing batted-ball data include defensive runs saved (from Baseball Info Solutions), ultimate zone rating (developed by sabermetician Mitchel Lichtman) and runs effectively defended (created by SABR's Chris Dial).
The two metrics included in the SDI from play-by-play data are defensive regression analysis, created by committee member Michael Humphreys, and total zone rating.
Uribe has never won a Gold Glove Award, and no Dodgers third baseman has ever been so honored.
Uribe had quite the comeback year all the way around in 2013, putting up arguably his finest season at age 33. He hit .278/.331/.438 with 12 home runs and a career-high 117 OPS+, and as the saying goes he hit well enough for Gold Glove consideration, a dig at the reputation of offensive production playing such a large role in a defensive award.
In the field Uribe was stellar. He made five errors in 900⅓ innings at third base, setting an L.A. Dodger record for fielding percentage by a third baseman at .983. Uribe was also rated the best third baseman in the NL by both Total Zone Rating (22 runs above average) and in Ultimate Zone Rating (24 runs above average).
The strength of Uribe's defense that gets mentioned most often regarding Uribe's defense is the softness and quickness of his hands, which often result in accurate throws like this one against Arizona:
Greinke made no errors in 47 chances this year and was rated by Baseball Info Solutions as having saved seven runs above average, second in the NL to Corbin. The last Dodgers pitcher to win a Gold Glove was Clayton Kershaw in 2011.
MLB began releasing finalists for Gold Glove Awards in 2011.
Mark Ellis has long had a reputation for fielding excellence but has never won a Gold Glove Award. He was rated by Total Zone Rating as five runs above average, sixth in the NL among second basemen. Phillips was first at 10 runs above average, while Barney was second at eight runs above average. Ellis was third among NL second baseman in Ultimate Zone Rating, behind Barney and Phillips.
The last Dodgers second baseman to win a Gold Glove was Orlando Hudson in 2009.
A.J. Ellis, like Uribe, Greinke and fellow law firm member Mark Ellis, has never won a Gold Glove. In 2013 his biggest improvement came in throwing out runners. He threw out 44.4% of runners trying to steal, second best in the National League among catchers with at least 20 starts, an improvement from 32.7% in 2012. In addition, the volume of stolen bases against Ellis decreased, from 74 successful thefts last year to 35 this season. Ellis also cut down his passed balls from 11 to six.
The last Dodgers catcher to win a Gold Glove was Martin in 2007. But Molina has won the last five Gold Gloves behind the plate, and Ellis knows it:
Gonzalez has won three Gold Gloves in his career (2008-09 with San Diego, 2011 with Boston) and was an American League finalist at first base in 2012. In 2013 he made a career-high 11 errors, but his range was still evident. He was third in UZR in the NL behind Rizzo and Brandon Belt, and tied for fifth in Total Zone Rating, with Goldschmidt and Rizzo 1-2 in that metric.
The awards will be announced on Tuesday at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN2.