Straight from MLB, here are the players acknowledged as the best defenders in the NL in 2009:
1B - Adrian Gonzalez (SD)
2B - Orlando Hudson (LA)
3B - Ryan Zimmerman (WASH)
SS - Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
C - Yadier Molina (STL)
OF - Shane Victorino (PHI)
OF - Michael Bourn (HOU)
OF - Matt Kemp (LA)
P - Adam Wainwright (STL)
Congratulations to Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright for winning this season.
For those new to the program, I highlighted the players I projected as winners in yesterday's column. Let's compare the projected folks with the winners. Fangraphs.com provides a repository of UZR data. I had hoped to include Dewan's Plus/Minus data as well (which Joe Posnanski likes to quote), but I can't find the database on line. If anyone knows where I can access that data, I'd be grateful if you include the link in the comments.
First Base - Adrian Gonzalez winning the award isn't that egregious an error. His raw UZR (3.8) was higher than Lee's (3.7). Also, Gonzalez had one more charged error in 120 more innings. Whatever your feelings are on errors, that's pretty good.
Second Base - Chase Utley had the third highest UZR in the NL this season. Orlando Hudson's was -3.7. Negative three point seven! Hudson cost the Dodgers 14 more runs than Utley did. Freddie Sanchez, Felipe Lopez, Brandon Phillips, Clint Barmes, hell even Kaz Matsui would have been better choices than Hudson. Talk about someone winning the award on reputation alone.
Third Base - No argument. The right guy won.
Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins started 152 games; JJ Hardy - 110. That must have been the deciding factor. Hardy had a better raw UZR, RngR, RF/G, and RF/9 than Rollins. In fact, the only statistics Rollins had an advantage was ErrR and Errors (Rollins - 6, Hardy - 8). If Hardy's 110 starts were a deal breaker, Ryan Theriot and Rafael Furcal both started 140+ games and saved their teams 6 more runs than Rollins did.
Outfield - The outfield voting always pisses me off, because the award usually goes to 3 center fielders. OH LOOK - that's what happened this year. Except this year's voting was worse than most.
Bourn's UZR was 8.7, Kemp's 3.2, and Victorino's -4.2. Not only were there better options in LF and RF than the winners (Ibanez's 10.7 in LF and Randy Wynn's 20.1 playing 104 games in RF), but there were 3 better CF than the winners - Nyjer Morgan (35.8), Colby Rasmus (13.7), and Mike Cameron (10.4).
The voting would be laughable except for the impact it will have on salaries for these guys and possible HOF credentials. Nothing happens in a vacuum, so to see worthy defenders ignored because of what appears to be a lack of criteria for evaluating defense is criminal. Back before 2002, using fielding percentage and errors was the best way to differentiate the good defenders from the bad. That's no longer true, with the advent of advanced statistical metrics like plus/minus and UZR.
MLB should do two things to make these awards meaningful: Mandate that voters look at advanced defensive metrics when making decisions, and take the vote away from managers/coaches - give it to an impartial body of evaluators. My guess is you could find a sabermetric organization (hey - how about SABR?) willing to sponsor the numbers part of it and distribute that data to the voters.
Otherwise, Dave Cameron is right - the award has no meaning and we should not care about the results.
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