The Braves don’t appear likely to take home much gold when award season kicks off soon. Of course, after the season they just had, that won’t surprise many. The semifinalists for the big awards were announced last night, but it was a week ago that baseball announced the three Gold Glove semifinalists for each position. It was buried under the weight of the World Series, but two Braves were nominated – Ender Inciarte and R.A. Dickey. I may look at Dickey later this week, but Inciarte’s candidacy is especially fascinating considering the premium nature of the position he plays. It made me wonder – should Inciarte win his second consecutive Gold Glove?
Two other candidates will try to keep that from happening. Nationals fans might suggest that Michael Taylor should win while Reds fans desperately believe this is the year Billy Hamilton finally gets his first. As a Braves fan, I’m inclined to disagree with both, but let’s take a look at the numbers. I picked a series of stats that remove the homer aspect of choosing who should win and focus completely on what the numbers say. As I write this, I have no idea who might win.
We’re going to do this by a simple point system. For each stat, first place is awarded five points. Second place is worth three points while third place is worth just one point. Ties allow for both players to receive the points. May the best center fielder win.
Highest Percentage of 5 and 4 Star Catches
This number is courtesy of baseballsavant.com as part of the statcast collection. It’s based on catch probability, which looks at where a player started, how far they had to travel to get to a ball, and in how much time. It then takes all the data from every player and allows us to say which plays get made between 0% and 25% of the time (five-star) and 26%-50% of the time (four-stars). I’m combining these two to give us a baseline on who made the highest percentage of plays above average. That’s not an exact statement, I know, but it’s in the vicinity.
Taylor…38% (15/40) – 5 pts
Inciarte…32% (24/73) – 3 pts
Hamilton…23% (12/51) – 1 pts
Most “Remote” and “Unlikely” Plays
A similar idea to 5-star catches from statcast, but with more focus on visual over data. Inside Edge Fielding looks at each play and grades the likelihood of making the said play. The advantage to this method is that we can suppose a greater understanding of what the player may have been dealing with (weather, shifting, and so on). The weakness is a higher grade of subjectivity. Remote is classified as those plays that have between a 1-and-10% chance of being made while unlikely runs between 10-and-40%. I’m using the actual number rather than the percentage because that is what is easily available to me.
Inciarte 37…5 pts
Hamilton 20…1.5 pts
Taylor 20…1.5 pts
Outs Above Average
Another number from the statcast collection, OAA takes the previous selection and includes all catches and all probabilities for making that catch. Unlike the previous series, I can lift this number directly.
Inciarte…19 OAA – 5 pts
Hamilton…10 OAA – 3 pts
Taylor…8 OAA – 1 pts
Defensive Runs Saved
One of the most widely cited defensive metrics. Braves fans became very comfortable with this number after watching Andrelton Simmons for a number of years. DRS attempts to capture a player’s overall defensive value. It tells you how many runs above or below a player is compared to the average player at this position. It’s similar to your understanding of WAR and so forth.
Taylor…9 – 2.5 pts
Hamilton…9 – 2.5 pts
Inciarte…5 – 1 pts
Plus/Minus Runs Saved
For a number of years, the Fielding Bible +/- stats were the definitive defensive metric available. That has changed, but I still find the number very useful. It’s simple to understand and acts in much the same way the probability stats from earlier do. It grades each player in the sense of how many plays they make or fail to make above the expected number of plays made by another player at that position. Like DRS, rPM translates into runs above average where 0 is the average.
Inciarte…7 – 5 pts
Taylor…1 – 3 pts
Hamilton…0 – 1 pts
And the winner is…
Certainly, you could keep going and utilize other stats, but these are some of my favorite defensive metrics and hey, I wrote the column. And yes, there may be some issues with subjectivity here in what numbers I choose to use over others. I avoided Ultimate Zone Rating because, in my opinion, it suffers from one-year spikes/falls more than most metrics.
The five metrics I did use give us this total.
Ender Inciarte – 19
Michael Taylor – 17
Billy Hamilton – 13
While I believe the argument is definitely there for Taylor – less so than for Hamilton – I am comfortable with the belief that Inciarte should be the 2017 Center Field Gold Glove winner for the National League. Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments.
(Edit: He, uh, won.)