When the Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen last offseason, they were not only losing a face of the franchise and arguably their best player, but potentially a Gold Glove defender, too. The Golden Glove wasn ?t McCutchen ?s, but instead Starling Marte ?s. Marte is a fine defensive center fielder, but he is elite in left. Corey Dickerson was brought in during spring training to man PNC Park ?s spacious left field, and while his bat was always a plus, his poor reputation as a defender made people nervous.
But to everyone’s surprise, Dickerson turned out to be the Pirates ? best defender in 2018. The rest of the league took notice, too, and Dickerson has earned his first Gold Glove nomination. Not bad for a guy who DH ?d most of the time in 2017. Dickerson ?s fellow nominees are Christian Yelich of the Brewers and Adam Duvall of the Braves, and the Pirate may be the front runner.
Wait, not Yelich? Yelich has the award season momentum on his side, with a Hank Aaron award already in hand and a Silver Slugger and MVP trophy on their way, too. A Gold Glove would complete the sweep, but it doesn ?t look like an automatic win for him.
Trivia time: who was the last player to win an MVP and Gold Glove in the same season? It ?s not Mike Trout. Nor is it Josh Donaldson. McCutchen, Jose Altuve and Joey Votto each won a Gold Glove within two years of their MVP season, but not during it. Give up? It ?s Joe Mauer, all the way back in 2009. A Gold Glove is no longer just a throw-in trophy.
Yelich wasn ?t even the Brewers ? primary left fielder this season. Ryan Braun (710) played more innings in left for Milwaukee than him (596). Only 47% of Yelich ?s defensive innings played came in left. A Yelich win won ?t be as bad as Rafael Palmeiro ?s 1999 award (in which he only started 28 games at first base), but shouldn ?t the distinction of the best defensive player in the league at a position get the majority of his innings at said position? How about the majority of his team’s innings at said position?
Sure, some will write in Yelich as a lazy vote, but it ?s not all up the voters anymore. Since 2013, 25% of the tally is stat based. Here ?s how the three stack up against one another:
Yelich may be the MVP in waiting, but he really doesn ?t belong in the Gold Glove discussion this season. Dickerson and Duvall are neck and neck, though, being in a virtual tie across DRS, UZR/150, assists and errors. Statcast thinks a little higher of Dickerson, giving him the edge in OAA and catch percentage added, but both players seem equally deserving.
DRS has been a good predictor for who will win the award in recent years. Since 2011 (the first year outfield Gold Gloves went by position rather than just picking three outfielders), 26 of the 42 winners led the league in defensive runs saved. In the last three seasons, 14 of the 18 winners led the league in DRS in their position.
This may be bad news for Dickerson since Duvall has one more run saved, but the Pirates ? guy may still have the edge. Innings played has been a swing vote in recent seasons, especially in the ?upsets. ? Alex Gordon played 154.2 more innings than Brett Gardner in 2017. Gardner was robbed that year, but that ?s karma for you. He had fewer DRS than Colby Rasmus of the Astros in 2016, but since he played 546.2 more innings in the field than him, he got the win. In 2016, Ender Inciarte put in 102.1 more innings than Billy Hamilton, and he pulled the upset. Inciarte only finished sixth in DRS in 2017, but he played far more innings in the field than anyone who finished in the top five.
The innings played correlation is surprising because it easily could go the other way. Saving the same amount of runs in fewer innings played would seem to indicate they are the better defender on a game by game basis, but durability reigns supreme, apparently. Gold Gloves aren’t voted on by the media, but by coaches. Coaches watch the game more than anyone, so someone who is out there more often has more opportunities to make an impression. Dickerson played 291 more innings in left than Duvall. That ?s a sizable difference that voters may not be able to ignore.
Right now, the NL left field Gold Glove seems like a true three man race. Yelich isn ?t truly deserving, but he will get votes because of his MVP season. Duvall had the most DRS, but if voters value innings played again, Dickerson may be the favorite. He played hard this season and was able to turn a weak part of his game into a strength. He ?s deserving, and he may get some new hardware on Nov. 4.