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Metrics will factor into Gold Glove awards

WashingtNationals v Chicago Cubs

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs

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Updated: August 26, 2013 8:53PM

When Gold Glove awards are handed out this fall, advanced metrics will be part of the equation for the first time. Rawlings, which has sponsored the awards since their inception in 1957, has
enlisted the Society for American Baseball Research to create the SABR Defensive Index.

That index will be worth 30 votes, about a quarter of the total, with the rest cast by major-league managers and coaches. The index is made up of five of the best-regarded defensive metrics: Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating, Runs Effectively Defended, Defensive Regression Analysis and Total Zone Rating.

It’s a recognition of how far and how fast defensive metrics have come in recent years with the tracking of batted balls’ location and velocity. It’s also a realization that there’s room for improvement in a vote by managers and coaches who see an opponent only a few times a season.

Now we have a system that includes both sabermetrics and on-field observation. Two of the metrics, DRS and UZR, are used as the defensive components in different versions of Wins Above Replacement, with using DRS in its dWAR and
using UZR.

What if the WAR metrics had been in use last season? Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney would have remained an easy Gold Glove winner, leading the majors at his position with 28 runs saved (compared to an average fielder) and topping baseball with a 15.0 UZR.

Other Gold Glove winners atop statistical comparisons were catcher Yadier Molina, right fielder Jason Heyward and pitcher Mark Buehrle in the National League and catcher Matt Wieters, first baseman Mark Teixeira, second baseman Robinson Cano, left fielder Alex Gordon and right fielder Josh Riddick in the American League.

At other NL positions, voters favored first baseman Adam LaRoche, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, third baseman Chase Headley, left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and center fielder Andrew McCutchen. DRS and UZR favored Clint Barmes at short, David Wright at third, Martin Prado in left and Michael Bourn in center. At first, there’s a hair-splitting matter between LaRoche (6.2 UZR, 8 DRS) and Joey Votto (6.2, 9).

In the AL, voters liked J.J. Hardy at short, Adrian Beltre at third and Adam Jones in center and split the pitching Gold Glove between Jake Peavy and Jeremy Hellickson. Figure WAR votes for Brendan Ryan, Mike Moustakas, Denard Span and Ricky Romero.

In some cases, the split is a matter of good against better. Hardy (12.4 UZR, 18 DRS) had a strong season at short, but Ryan (13.8, 27) was terrific. A few defenders having below-average seasons won anyway. McCutchen (-8.8 UZR, -5 DSR) shows up on the negative side of both metrics, while Bourn (23.3, 24) was one of the best defenders at any position.

If managers and coaches
form a consensus around a fielder who doesn’t show up well in the metrics, their decisions still will carry the day. But a close vote can turn on the numbers as SABR has its day at the ballot box.

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