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Neil Walker, Not Andrew McCutchen, is Pirates’ Finalist for Gold Glove Award: A Fan’s Reaction
Yesterday MLB announced the three Gold Glove finalists at each position. There is probably one player that Pittsburgh Pirates fans figured would be a candidate for sure. The player I have mind was not named as a finalist but the voters made up for it by nominating another instead, Neil Walker(notes).
Neil Walker is one of the three finalists for the Gold Glove at second base. The other two finalists are Brandon Phillips(notes) of Cincinnati and Omar Infante(notes) of the Florida Marlins. Regardless of which of the three actually deserves to be named the 2011 Gold Glove Award Winner I doubt it will be Walker.
The Gold Glove voters often vote based more on reputation rather than making a real attempt to choose the right person. The finalist that has the most previous Gold Glove Awards is likely to win it again because it's the type of lazy choice the voters often make. That finalist would be Brandon Phillips, who has won three out of the last four Gold Glove Awards. Infante has a reputation as a good defensive player so Walker is probably third in race.
Walker did have comparable fielding stats in 2011 though. Walker and Phillips were tied with a .992 fielding percentage and both had six errors on the season while Infante was slightly behind in both categories. Infante did lead the three in range factor and Phillips lead the three in Zone Rating. Walker also turned the most double plays despite playing with five different shortstops through the course of the season.
It's still nice to see Walker included. Walker was one of the anchors of the Pirates team in 2011, a team that stayed above .500 for the longest amount of time since the 1992 team that finished first in the NL East and went to the NLCS. Walker, nicknamed "The Pittsburgh Kid" is from Pittsburgh and has quickly become one of the fan favorites of the Pirates. Being a finalist for the Gold Glove is probably the biggest accomplish so far in Walker's young career. He also finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2010.
As thrilled as Pittsburgh fans will be about Walker, they'll be equally baffled by the exclusion of Andrew McCuthen. The three finalists for the center field Gold Glove are Matt Kemp(notes), Shane Victorino(notes) and Chris Young. Admittedly McCutchen made more errors and therefore had a lower fielding percentage than the three finalists and those are probably the only stats the prehistoric voters are looking at, if they look at any stats at all.
Where McCutchen makes up for the few mental mistakes is the remarkable highlight plays. Kemp deserves to be a finalist-and maybe even the winner-because he's the only one that compares to McCutchen in outstanding plays. McCutchen finished second to Kemp in outfield assists and this isn't one of those scenarios where they throw out runners because they're young and runners don't know better yet. Runners are cautious when the ball is hit to Kemp and McCutchen and take a chance against their arms less. The fact that they still led the league in outfield assists says they are throwing out a high percentage of runners.
Kemp and McCutchen also tied for first in double plays, a rare feat for outfielders. Where McCutchen smokes the rest of the field is in Range Factor. McCutchen's Range Factor is 2.81 and the second place center fielder is 2.64. Kemp and Victorino are actually tied for last in Range Factor among centerfielders that qualify.
Then there's Ronny Cedeno(notes). Cedeno is one of the three finalists for the shortstop Gold Glove along with Troy Tulowitzki(notes) of the Colorado Rockies and Atlanta's Alex Gonzalez(notes). I didn't include him as a Pirate in the opening paragraph because, well, he's not a Pirate anymore. The Pirates decided not to pick up his option so Cedeno is now a free agent.
Why Cedeno is a finalist I'm not sure. Cedeno did have a fine defensive season in 2011 but Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Jimmy Rollins(notes) have better fielding stats across the board. It is odd that a player as well known as Rollins would be left out. On the other hand, even if Cedeno is not worthy of the Gold Glove I still don't know why the Pirates declined his option. Cedeno might not be worth the tag price, but after Jose Reyes(notes) and Rollins there isn't much more available and the Pirates aren't getting Reyes or Rollins.
The winners of the Gold Glove Awards will be announced Tuesday evening.
Jennifer Langosch, Neil Walker, Ronny Cedeno get Gold Glove nominations for Pirates, Pirates.com
The last several generations of Lee Andrew Henderson's family were Pittsburgh born and even though he was born in Alabama he has been a long time fan of the Pirates, Steelers and Panthers. Lee Andrew Henderson can be found on Twitter at @LeeAHenderson
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