Gold Glove Awards await top defensive dynamos

Gold Glove Awards await top defensive dynamos

Gold Glove Awards await top defensive dynamos

Baseball is once again ready to show some love for the glove.

The awareness of defensive prowess as one of the key components to winning in the Major Leagues has grown exponentially in recent years, and the advanced statistics that have evolved to help quantify that acumen will play a more important role than ever when the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners for 2013 are announced Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Three finalists from each position in each league were revealed on Friday, and on Tuesday the winners will be crowned. This fiefdom of fielding surely will include some familiar names and perhaps a newcomer or two.

From a historical standpoint, the headliner of the whole group of nominees is a man who's manning his position for one of the two teams still playing baseball this late on the fall calendar.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who is currently flashing his skills in the World Series against the Red Sox, is up for a sixth National League Gold Glove Award, which would put him in rare company. Molina would join Ivan Rodriguez (13), Johnny Bench (10), Bob Boone (seven) and Jim Sundberg (six) among catchers who have won at least six times, but in order to do so he'll have to beat A.J. Ellis of the Dodgers and one-time Gold Glove winner Russell Martin of the Pirates.

"I think he does exactly what he says," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said earlier in the Series. "He tries to figure it out, whether it's throwing, whether it's calling a game, whether it's just the management of all things that are happening on the field. He's not a complacent person.

"Every once in a while you come across that caliber of person, that regardless of statistics, regardless of the trophies and the things that they've been able to win, they just have a desire that's beyond most."

The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles both had winning records in despite down years from the Rays' offense and the Orioles' starting pitching. One of the reasons was excellent defense, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed in the Gold Glove department.

Every member of the Rays' infield (first baseman James Loney, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Yunel Escobar and two-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman Evan Longoria ) is a finalist, and six Orioles (two-time-winning catcher Matt Wieters, last year's American League Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy and 2012 winning center fielder Adam Jones plus third baseman Manny Machado, first baseman Chris Davis and right fielder Nick Markakis ) are in the mix.

"We have pretty much the epitome of a fundamental shortstop who plays the game smart and makes good decisions," Baltimore third-base coach Bobby Dickerson said of Hardy. "One of the biggest things that has happened has been our first-base play. Chris Davis has probably saved eight or 10 throwing errors, which in turn saves a whole lot more. Once the guys feel comfortable throwing, they don't aim the ball over there. Most defenses, if you don't throw the ball away, you usually play pretty soundly."

Plenty of defenders have played pretty soundly this year, and some of them will be getting Gold Gloves for the first time, in part because of the fact that the voting process has been altered.

Since the award's inception in 1957, winners have determined solely on the votes of Major League managers and coaches. But they got an assist this year from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). For the first time, Rawlings collaborated with SABR to formally incorporate sabermetrics into the selection process.

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-ball, 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 sabermetrician 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.

The plan, according to Rawlings and SABR, is to have the SDI complement the judgment by the managers and coaches. The SABR Defensive Index will account for 30 total votes -- or approximately 25 percent -- of the selection process, and will be added to the votes from the managers and coaches.

Ballots were distributed to managers and coaches in September, and they received a revamped statistical resource guide as well.

As a result, there will be a first-time winner at first base in the AL, with Davis a finalist along with Loney and Eric Hosmer of the Royals, and in the NL, there will be a new winner at third base, with the finalists there being the Rockies' Nolan Arenado, Juan Uribe of the Dodgers and the Mets' David Wright. Wright won Gold Glove Awards in 2007 and 2008.

Other players aiming to repeat Gold Glove wins include Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who is up against Zobrist and Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, and Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is a finalist along with Machado, who led the AL in fielding percentage and zone rating, and Longoria.

All three NL Gold Glove outfielders from 2012 have a chance to repeat: Braves right fielder Jason Heyward, who won last year, is up against Jay Bruce of the Reds and Gerardo Parra of the D-backs. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates can defend his crown against Carlos Gomez of the Brewers and Nationals left fielder Denard Span, and in left, Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez aims to win for a second consecutive year but has challenges in the form of Starling Marte of the Pirates and Eric Young Jr. of the Mets.

In the AL, Oakland's Josh Reddick will win his second straight Gold Glove in right field if he beats out Markakis and Shane Victorino of the Red Sox, who won NL Gold Gloves from 2008-10 as a member of the Phillies. Jones can repeat in center for the AL if he gets more votes than Lorenzo Cain of the Royals and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox.

Darwin Barney of the Cubs will secure his second consecutive Gold Glove Award at second base if he prevails in the NL over Mark Ellis of the Dodgers and Brandon Phillips of the Reds, who won the award in 2008, '10 and '11. And among AL left fielders, Alex Gordon of the Royals is gunning for his second straight award but he'll have to beat out worthy competitors in Yoenis Cespedes of the A's and Andy Dirks of the Tigers.

Wieters will have tough foes at the AL catcher slot in Kansas City's Salvador Perez and the Twins' Joe Mauer, who won Gold Gloves from 2008-10, and Hardy can repeat at AL shortstop only if he bests a pair of Escobars: Yunel of the Rays and Alicides of the Royals.

The most unique repeat can be pulled off by Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle, who also won a Gold Glove Award in 2012 -- but in the National League, with the Marlins. Buehrle will try to add the AL honor to the ones he won with the White Sox from 2009-11. He is up against one of his teammates, R.A. Dickey, and Doug Fister of the Tigers. NL pitchers up for the honor are Zack Greinke of the Dodgers, Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and Patrick Corbin of the D-backs.

Otherwise, first base in the NL figures to be an intriguing vote, with Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers trying to win his third Gold Glove overall and first since 2009. He's up against Paul Goldschmidt of the D-backs and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs.

And shortstop in the NL might be the most interesting competition of all as far as sabermetric input is concerned. Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies carries the best resume to the table, having won Gold Gloves in 2010 and '11, and Washington shortstop Ian Desmond is coming off a strong year, but Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, by all advanced statistical accounts of the 2013 season, was not only the premier shortstop in the NL but far and away the best overall defender in the sport.

Simmons' mastery of his position led to the greatest single season in the 11-year history of defensive runs saved (41) and sky-high ratings in ultimate zone rating and runs effectively defended.

"I've gotten a lot wiser," Simmons said. "I'm getting better jumps. I'm getting better reads off of swings. I'm trying to make better decisions. I feel like I've gotten smarter, and in time, I think I'm going to get better."

We'll see Tuesday if he's good enough for a Gold Glove Award.

Here is the complete list of finalists:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Pitcher: Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays; R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays; Doug Fister, Tigers.

Catcher: Joe Mauer, Twins; Salvador Perez, Royals; Matt Wieters, Orioles.

First base: Chris Davis, Orioles; Eric Hosmer, Royals; James Loney, Rays.

Second base: Robinson Cano, Yankees; Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox; Ben Zobrist, Rays.

Third base: Adrian Beltre, Rangers; Evan Longoria, Rays; Manny Machado, Orioles.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar, Royals; Yunel Escobar, Rays; J.J. Hardy, Orioles.

Left field: Yoenis Cespedes, A's; Andy Dirks, Tigers; Alex Gordon, Royals.

Center field: Lorenzo Cain, Royals; Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox; Adam Jones, Orioles.

Right field: Nick Markakis, Orioles; Shane Victorino, Red Sox; Josh Reddick, A's.

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

Pitcher: Patrick Corbin, D-backs; Zack Greinke, Dodgers; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals.

Catcher: A.J. Ellis, Dodgers; Russell Martin, Pirates; Yadier Molina, Cardinals.

First base Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs; Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers; Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Second base: Darwin Barney, Cubs; Brandon Phillips, Reds; Mark Ellis, Dodgers.

Third base: Nolan Arenado, Rockies; Juan Uribe, Dodgers; David Wright, Mets.

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Nationals; Andrelton Simmons, Braves; Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies.

Left field: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; Starling Marte, Pirates; Eric Young Jr., Mets.

Center field: Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates; Denard Span, Nationals.

Right field: Jay Bruce, Reds; Jason Heyward, Braves; Gerardo Parra, D-backs.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.