Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Will Zim's glove be golden again?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ryan Zimmerman seeks his second straight Gold Glove award.
Major League Baseball reveals this year's Gold Glove award winners this week (AL winners are announced later today, NL winners tomorrow) which means a member of the Nationals will actually be in the discussion for a major award.

Might as well enjoy it while you can, because you won't be hearing much about the Nats over the next two weeks as the other big awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year) are handed out.

This, however, is an opportunity for the Nationals' one truly established star to earn some due recognition as one of the game's best. Ryan Zimmerman nabbed his first Gold Glove a year ago. Can he make it two in a row?

Conventional wisdom says he probably will. Not because he was the clear-cut best defensive third baseman in the NL this season -- the Padres' Chase Headley actually beat out Zim in UZR (16.5 to 13.9) and committed fewer errors (13 to 17) -- but because this award is based way more on reputation than actual statistical performance.

The Gold Gloves are awarded based on the votes of managers and coaches from each league. Which is a perfectly valid method for honoring the game's best defensive players. These guys see everyone in the league up close and personal, and they offer a perspective writers and fans can never have (unless any of us has actually played professional baseball).

But I can assure you that most managers and coaches pay absolutely no attention to advanced fielding metrics. I'd be surprised if more than seven of the 30 MLB managers even know what UZR means.

These guys base their evaluations on what they see with their own eyes, and not only what they saw this season. Gold Gloves have notoriously become more of a lifetime achievement award than anything. Once you win once, you're pretty much assured of winning every subsequent year unless you really do something terrible in the field or some new stud comes along and blows everyone else out of the water. And, of course, offensive performance for some reason gets taken into consideration as well.

You can debate whether any of this is fair or not, but it actually plays in Zimmerman's favor. Truth be told, he probably wasn't as good in the field this year as he was last year (though his UZR went slightly up from 13.7 to 13.9 and he committed the same 17 errors as he did in 2009). To the untrained eye, Zim seemed a little less of a sure thing at third base this season. His sidearm throwing technique was awkward and led to some hold-your-breath moments. He also didn't make quite as many highlight-reel plays as he did in 2009, when he won ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" Web Gem Award.

But ask any half-aware observer of the game who the best third baseman in the National League is, and I'm guessing at least 90 percent would say Zimmerman. He's established a reputation as the best defensive player at his position, and he'll probably continue to be rewarded for it.

We'll find out for sure tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.


Anonymous said...

RZ is the one sure thing the Nats don't have to worry about...at least until the next contract comes up. Hopefully he'll be surrounded by continuing blossoming talent that leads to a rise in the NL East, which might tempt him to stay put....hopefully. JTinSC

Steve M. said...

Certainly hoping Zim takes home the Gold and Silver again this year with regards to the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger and I would expect that he will move up the tote board on the MVP voting from last year.

Doc said...

Nice objective analysis of RZ's last year fielding status,Mark. I don't think he was ever completely healthy. It's your objectivity that we all count on.

You're spot on about baseball managers and coaches not being aware of sabermetrics. By contrast it is my feeling that NFL coaches, being more disciplined, probably study similar football stats on a day-to-day basis.

Anonymous said...

RZ hasn't had an error saving first baseman in at least a season and a half. It does make a difference. perhaps explaining his throwing issues.

Steve M. said...

Funny, Zim says Dunn has saved him errors as he was great coming off the base and applying the tags.

Desmond may be a different story as many of his errors were throws in the dirt where Dunn had a tough time scooping the short hops.

SEC3ms said...

Know what UZR is? How many of them can spell UZR?

A DC Wonk said...

Know what UZR is? How many of them can spell UZR?

You see are? What'r'ya talkin' about?!

court said...

Fortunately for Zim, the eyes say the same thing as the metrics... this guy is pretty darn good. And for the record, Zim has NEVER had a 1B help him out much. NJ was way overrated defensively during his time here.

Farid Rushdi said...

You mentioned that once a player gets his first Gold Glove, he usually keeps on winning it.

What about David Wright? After back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2007 & 2008, he lost out to Ryan Zimmerman last season.

His defense hasn't changed. What gives?

Steve M. said...

Farid, good point and I think David Wright fell out of favor to many in baseball in 2009 when he lost his power which hits the popularity contest side of things since his power had nothing to do with the Glove but finally the voters got it "wright".

Wright hit only 10 HRs in 2009 and missed the last 2 weeks of the season with an injury. He has still been an All Star every year since 2006 but David Wright wasn't better than Zim with the Glove either of those 2 previous years but got it on reputation as Rolen basically owned the 3rd base GG 7 out of the previous 9 seasons.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Mark writes: "Once you win once, you're pretty much assured of winning every subsequent year unless you really do something terrible in the field."

Oh, so you've seen RZ lob throw it to first base on a routine play?

Listen, I love the guy ... but no way does Zimm win GG this year. Too many throwing errors, not enough Web gems on TV, and, really, how can a guy with 17 errors be a GG'er? I know, I know, he was last year with 17 errors.

Personally, I think Polanco, Wright and maybe even Headley deserve it over Zimm. And I do love defense, and I love Zimm. Just not this year, not this award.

Traveler8 said...

Okay, just saw the GG winners for the American League - not bad, except that Derek Jeter seems to get one for just being there. Mark, you know the National League players well - would you venture offering your opinion on who should win the Gold Gloves in the National League tomorrow?

Water23 said...

I hope he wins and not to be a downer but I guess we should enjoy Zim for the next two years. The way things are shaping up a 29 yr old, 3-4 time gold glove, .300 BA and 30 HRs CI will probably be sick of averaging 90+ losses and not sign with the Nats after 2013. Some can only take so much losing.

court said...

Who gives a flying flip about errors these days( btw, Wright had 20 E's and Headley had 13 since you care so much)? Infield defense is all about range and the only NL 3B in the conversation with Zim is Headley. Defense is about preventing baserunners, and Zim is the best. If he throws a few more balls away than most because he gets to way more balls then so be it. If you look at UZR/150 for the past two years, only Beltre is better than Zim. David Wright is dead last, making him the worst defensive 3B in baseball.

If Headley wins, I'll have no problem with it, but Zim's defensive metrics are right there with him, plus Zim has multiple years of stellar D in bank whereas Headley is a new comer.

It's time that all self-respecting Washington National fans get on board with the new defensive metrics and appreciate what a special 3B we have the privilege to watch each year.

Mark Zuckerman said...

You know, I'm not even going to attempt to venture a guess as to how the NL awards will look when they're announced tomorrow. Based on what we just saw with the AL awards -- Derek Jeter won despite ranking last among all league shortstops in range -- I think we can officially confirm that managers and coaches pay zero attention to stats (especially advanced stats) when it comes to this.

Sunderland said...

Grabbed AL SS's, took the top 15 in Total Chances. basically, trying to evaluate the guys who are everyday shortstops in the AL.

Fielding PCT, Jeter is clear #1. He rarely makes an error.

In Chances per Inning, Jeter is clear last of the 15. He gets to fewer balls than ALL OTHER EVERYDAY SHORTSTOPS!

In Putouts per Inning, he's 14th of 15.
He makes fewer outs than almost every other everyday shortstop.

In DP's per Innings, he's middle of the pack. Tells me there's plenty of ground balls being hit, he just doesn't get to many of them.

Hard to believe he's the best SS glove in the AL.

Anonymous said...

Range is not a factor...so quit Jeter hating, making errors is a factor, cutting in front of the shortstop when he has a chance at the ball is not good defense, loopy throws to first is not good defense, sure Zim does not make many errors but he makes plenty of bad plays on the ball! NO Gold Glove for him, never deserved it in the 1st place.

Feel Wood said...

"Derek Jeter won despite ranking last among all league shortstops in range -- I think we can officially confirm that managers and coaches pay zero attention to stats (especially advanced stats) when it comes to this."

This is clearly a case of AL mgrs and coaches saying en masse "Hey, if Jeter keeps winning the Gold Glove the Yankees will have to keep running him out there at SS. That's to our advantage. Vote for Jeter!"

NatsJack in Florida said...

Does anyone actually believe someone can be so baseball senseless to say "range is not a factor"?

Anonymous said...

If range is not a factor, you could just park my fat can in a la-z-boy at the hot corner and watch me pick 'em. Well, I'd pick' em if they hit them right to me. Gentle please.

JD said...

'range is not a factor' is the most moronic comment I have ever seen on any board and I've seen some doozies.

Sam said...

Probably a Phillies fan trying to rile us up...no Nats fan is that senseless.

sec3 my sofa said...

My favorite part was "cutting in front of the shortstop when he has a chance at the ball is not good defense"--I enjoyed that.

Faraz Shaikh said...

What about ichiro winning 10th? OMG 10 GG, 10 ASG, 7 Hits title, 10 200 hits season, 10 .300+ batting average and so on. The guy just doesn't stop. I hope seattle can put a good people around him so he can win at least a world series or two.

I wouldn't hate if Headley won it but go Zimm.

BinM said...

Without drilling into (& quoting) the stats, I'd think that RZim is in consideration for the 2010 GG, but probably doesn't deserve it this year. Rolen [CIN], Headley [SD], and maybe even Polanco [PHI] all rang up as good as, if not better defensive metrics than RZim at 3B in the NL, IMHO.

I think he has a better chance at a repeat Silver Slugger than he does as a Gold Glove, but David Wright should beat him out there.

N. Cognito said...

Anonymous said...
"Range is not a factor...so quit Jeter hating, making errors is a factor"

Now that's funny! Absurdly funny.

Anonymous said...

Fielding Bible Awards have Longoria over Zim for best in the majors.


NatsJack in Florida said...

As someone who gets to watch Longoria and Zimmerman regularly, I can honestly say, they are equals. I couldn't make a choice between either one of them because they are so similar.

N. Cognito said...

What's really funny is how defensive so many Yankees fans are. They are delusional. More delusional than even Redskins fans. And that's bad!

Steve M. said...


Speaking of the Yankees, if you believe this story the Yankees new DH for 2011 will be Jorge Posada which means they don't need Nick Johnson back or Adam Dunn.

Dunn's suitors are dropping one at a time and the Yankees were the biggest name out there. The Tigers and Cubs are both in the discussion for Dunn and you have to think that neither team with their large payrolls and all the deadwood they are carrying can afford a big contract plus the Type "A" label will cost them dearly!

I think both teams will send offers and don't see anyone going much north of $13 million for 3 years.

Steve M. said...


From the last paragraph...Washington first baseman Adam Dunn will be asking in the range of three-years, $40 million, a contract the Cubs will not be able to afford. The Cubs will look at Tampa’s Carlos Pena, the Yankees Lance Berkman, Arizona’s Adam Laroche, the Yankee’s Nick Johnson and possible short-term free-agent solutions if a trade for Gonzalez is not feasible.

Also in this ESPN article you have to wonder about Adrian Gonzalez's shoulder operation and how he will recover since most Docs say that is a 6 month recovery on that labrum surgery, and that last paragraph is a "no go" on the Cubs being a suitor for Adam Dunn.

That is a head scratcher and seems to be the way things turned for Dunn back in 2008 as his suitors all turned elsewhere.

If you read the MLBTR latest predictions they all point Dunn towards Detroit or ChicagoNL


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