The Rawlings Gold Glove award show took on some renewed interest this season after the lead sponsor announced a new sabermetric component would be used in determining the winners. Hey, something had to be done if they hoped to restore credibility and prestige to an award that has made some damaging oversights and announced an endless parade of head-scratching winners over the past 15 years.
Is it a perfect solution? Probably not. Even the biggest sabermetric supporters will admit inaccuracies and inconsistencies exist in defensive metrics. But it still had to be considered a major improvement over player and manager votes being cast strictly on reputation and number of highlights seen on various media outlets.
If the first year is any indication, it appears to have made at least some impact on the results. Typically, young players have a difficult time passing more established veteran players at their position, regardless of defensive prowess.
That wasn't a problem in the American League, where 21-year-old third baseman Manny Machado overcame four-time winner Adrian Beltre and two-time winner Evan Longoria. And deservedly so. Machado led baseball in defensive runs saved at third base. He's the first Orioles third baseman to win the award since Brooks Robinson in 1975.
Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez won his first gold glove, defeating Matt Wieters and Joe Mauer. Together, those veterans accounted for each of the last five winners in the AL.
In the National League, Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons had perhaps the greatest fielding season ever at his position, but based on past results Troy Tulowitzki still felt like a threat to win the award. Common sense and good judgment won out, with Simmons taking home the first glove by a Braves infielder since 1992. He finished the season with 41 runs saved defensively. No other shortstop accounted for half that many.
Colorado Rockies rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado was a defensive wizard, making highlight play after highlight play with his glove and barehand. His bat hasn't caught up to big league pitching just yet (.267 with 10 homers and 52 RBIs), but it's nice to see his defense viewed in a separate light and ultimately recognized. His selection, more than any other, shows progress is being made with the award.
Here are the full list of winners:
Pitcher: R.A. Dickey - Toronto Blue Jays (1st time winner)
Catcher: Salvador Perez - Kansas City Royals (1st)
First Base: Eric Hosmer - Kansas City Royals (1st)
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia - Boston Red Sox (3rd)
Third Base: Manny Machado - Baltimore Orioles (1st)
Shortstop: J.J. Hardy - Baltimore Orioles (2nd)
Left Field: Alex Gordon - Kansas City (3rd)
Center Field: Adam Jones - Baltimore Orioles (3rd)
Right Field: Shane Victorino - Boston Red Sox (4th)
Pitcher: Adam Wainwright - St. Louis Cardinals (2nd time winner)
Catcher: Yadier Molina - St. Louis Cardinals (6th)
First Base: Paul Goldschmidt - Arizona Diamondbacks (1st)
Secord Base: Brandon Phillips - Cincinnati Reds (4th)
Third Base: Nolan Arenado - Colorado Rockies (1st)
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons - Atlanta Braves (1st)
Left Field: Carlos Gonzalez - Colorado Rockies (3rd)
Center Field: Carlos Gomez - Milwaukee Brewers (1st)
Right Field: Gerardo Parra - Arizona Diamondbacks (2nd)
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