(USA Today)There’s no doubt the credibility and prestige of the Rawlings Gold Glove awards have taken a beating over the past two decades. Look no further than Rafael Palmeiro’s selection in 1999 despite playing only 28 games in the field as a first baseman as a prime example of why the award is now viewed more as a lifetime achievement award or a secondary offensive award than a legitimate fielding award in the eyes of many fans.
Of course there have been many other damaging oversights and head-scratching winners crowed over that time period that have contributed to its decay. I don't think we need to name all of the names here. But the good news now is that the folks over at Rawlings appear to be serious about restoring the award's credibility.
In fact, we already saw them take one positive step in 2011 when they decided to separate the outfield spots into individual positions. This allowed corner outfielders who were often overlooked to have a fair shake. Now comes word that beginning in 2013, Rawlings will add a sabermetric component to the award that will weigh into the decision while also providing better information to the managers and players before they cast their votes.
As part of the multi-year collaboration beginning with the 2013 season, SABR will develop an expanded statistical resource guide that will accompany the Rawlings Gold Glove Award ballots sent to managers and coaches each year.
In addition, SABR will immediately establish a new Fielding Research Committee tasked to develop a proprietary new defensive analytic called the SABR Defensive Index™, or SDI™. The SDI will serve as an “apples-to-apples” metric to help determine the best defensive players in baseball exclusively for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and Rawlings Platinum Glove Award selection processes. The collaboration also installs SABR as the presenting sponsor of the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award.
Beginning in 2013, the managers/coaches vote will constitute a majority of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners’ selection tally, with the new SDI comprising of the remainder of the overall total. The exact breakdown of the selection criteria will be announced once the SDI is created later this summer.
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Even the biggest sabermetric supporters will freely admit inaccuracies and inconsistencies exist in defensive metrics, but this is still a large improvement over votes being cast strictly on reputation and number of highlights seen on various media outlets. Of course the managers and players also have to take this seriously and use the new resources to their advantage to make this matter, but over time this really could be the key to cleaning up the mess and rehabbing the Gold Glove's value.
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