Polanco was the Tigers' lone Gold Glove winner this year following a season in which defense was one of Detroit's strengths and a big reason why the Tigers stayed in contention. The Tigers were shut out of the Gold Glove Awards last year, reflecting a defense that they tried to remedy during the last offseason. Major League managers and coaches vote on the honors each year.
"I'm thrilled," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said by phone Tuesday night. "To me, he's been a Gold Glover every year since I've been there. He's just a tremendous, tremendous, steady defensive player, and I couldn't be happier for him. He's a great player, great teammate, and I'm happy for him to get recognition."
While Detroit's upgrades around the infield last winter made a difference, Polanco made a statistical improvement of his own. Though he couldn't duplicate his errorless 2007 season, his error total fell from eight last year to two this past season. Working alongside shortstops Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago, along with Brandon Inge at third, Polanco helped turn a career-high 112 double plays. His .997 fielding percentage easily led all AL second basemen, while his 731 total chances and his range factor of 5.1 putouts plus assists per nine innings ranked near the top.
The more specialized fielding stats were more favorable on Polanco than one might expect for a middle infielder who turned 34 years old last month. While Polanco ranked lower among AL second basemen on zone rating, a statistic created by STATS Inc. to measure the rate of outs converted in a player's defensive zone, his ultimate zone rating of 11.4 led all Major League second basemen.
Statistically, this should bolster his case on the open market this winter. While the Tigers could conceivably bring him back on a short-term contract, he's expected to draw enough interest from other clubs to have his share of choices. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last month that prospect Scott Sizemore was ready to step in at second if he can't re-sign Polanco.
Leyland doesn't want to talk about Polanco's future, but regardless, Polanco's play at second will be tough for him to forget.
"When I look out from the dugout every night and see balls hit that way, I don't even think about it," Leyland said. "Sometimes you see a ball hit and you worry about a bad hop. You don't worry about that with him. He's tremendous."
If Polanco leaves, he'll do so with his mark set in Detroit. He becomes the third Tigers infielder to win multiple Gold Gloves, joining the double-play duo of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. The Gold Glove Award dates back to 1957.
Other Tigers fell short in their Gold Glove bids. Gerald Laird's league-leading 42-percent rate of throwing out baserunners couldn't earn him the nod at catcher over Minnesota's Joe Mauer. Brandon Inge's abundance of highlight plays couldn't overshadow his error total at third, where Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria captured his first Gold Glove. Curtis Granderson couldn't crack the AL Gold Glove outfield mix of longtime standards Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki plus newcomer Adam Jones.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.