No Gold, But a Silver

AL Gold Glove

Now I wasn’t expecting Omar Vizquel to win his umpteenth Gold Glove this season, and he really didn’t deserve it. However, the fact that Derek Jeter won it really makes me wonder if the Gold Glove is that relevent anymore. If you go by most of the “mainstream” defensive measure (fielding percentage, range factor, zone rating), Jeter doesn’t finish first (or second, for that matter) in any of them. And Jeter doesn’t have the incumbent effect (Bret Boone, for example). So why was Jeter the winner?

1) He plays in New York
2) He just had the best defensive season of his career (though that still meant he was pretty average)
3) The absence of Alex Rodriguez from contention this season
4) A certain play against the Red Sox

Unfortunately, I don’t think those are in any particular order. One play does not in itself earn you a gold glove. Baseball more than other sport rewards players who are above all else consistent with their performances. I’m more a big believer in a body of work than making a certain sports show’s top plays. Defense statistics are light-years behind offensive measures, and no one has really produced a statistic that truly separates great defensive players from merely good ones. But nonetheless, here’s several mainstream and sabermetric statistics, and where AL shortstops placed.

Fielding Percentage
1. David Eckstein (.988)
2. Cristian Guzman (.983)
3. Omar Vizquel (.982)
4. Derek Jeter (.981)
5. Bobby Crosby (.975)

Range Factor (RF)
1. Miguel Tejada (5.00)
2. Carlos Guillen (4.97)
3. Bobby Crosby (4.96)
4. Jose Valentin (4.91)
5. Julio Lugo (4.78)

Zone Rating (ZR)
1. Jose Valentin (.878)
2. Bobby Crosby (.870)
3. Miguel Tejada (.861)
4. David Eckstein (.859)
5. Julio Lugo (.848)

Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA)
Miguel Tejada (18)
Carlos Guillen (16)
Jose Valentin (9)
Bobby Crosby (5)
Derek Jeter (2)
David Eckstein (2)
Julio Lugo (-2)
Omar Vizquel (-1)

A quick note of these statistics. Fielding percentage is simply the percent of times a player didn’t commit an error. Zone Rating is the percent of times a player fielded a ball hit into his “zone.” Range factor is (Putouts+Assists)/(PO+A+Errors). And Fielding Runs Above Average is Baseball Prospectus’ measure of how many runs a defensive player saved over the average player at his position. Like I said, these stats are far from being proven useful 100% of the time, but it sure beats arguing that “So-and-so is better than so-and-so because I said so!”

If I had to pick an AL Gold Glove, I’d probably go with Miguel Tejada. Although Tejada hasn’t exactly had a stellar defensive career, he’s still been better than Jeter, and he had by far a better season in the field. This leads me to wonder if Tejada might have had a better all-around season in this year than his 2002 MVP season.

AL Silver Slugger

The good news yesterday was that Victor Martinez shared the AL Silver Slugger Award for a catcher with Ivan Rodriguez. Martinez probably achieved a share of the award by all his RBIs; Rodriguez posted a better VORP (64.0 to 49.5) and EQA (.300 to .285) Travis Hafner, sadly, was beaten out at DH by Boston’s David Ortiz. He bested Ortiz in VORP (74.1 to 73.1) and EQA (.325 to .309). Still, Ortiz over Hafner isn’t that bad compared to 1995, when a Boston player stole the MVP from an Cleveland player because the media didn’t like the latter.

Free Agent Fever

Finally, onto the upcoming Free Agent season. I’ve posted what I think the Indians’ shopping list looks like to the left. Although the Indians would be more than happy signing Pedro Martinez or Carl Pavano, economics aren’t in the team’s favor. My top three (1st Tier) consists of Matt Clement, Brad Radke, and Jaret Wright, in that order. If the Indians sign any one of these three, I think they did well. The 2nd Tier guys have in my opinion a lot more question marks, but if the front office doesn’t overpay for one of them, I’ll be satisfied. The 3rd Tier (and everyone else) guys would be seen as a disappointment; I don’t really see any of them being good enough to be a third starter on a good team.

I try to stay away from rumors, especially since teams can’t talk to other teams’ free agents as of yet, but I’ve seen this several places. The White Sox are really going to go hard after Omar Vizquel, and will apparently offer him a two year, $8M contract. Frankly I have no clue why the White Sox would throw that much money at Vizquel, especially given his age, but I certainly won’t complain if GM Kenny Williams wants to do it.

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