Two nights ago, for the first time in 32 years, three different Red Sox were awarded the highest defensive honor, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez each taking home a Gold Glove. All three of these guys seemed to be pretty good choices, but with the defensive stats available across the web, I decided to check out for myself if they deserved them. In order to see the validity of the awards, I used UZR and DRS from FanGraphs; and Total Zone Runs Above Average from Baseball-Reference.* Because fielding statistics don't always work well year-to-year, I will also look at these stats from 2009-2011 for a greater sample size, but still weighing the single-season stats more heavily.
Firstly, we will look at Dustin Pedroia and his competition at second base. Looking firstly at the UZR statistic from FanGraphs, Pedroia ranked at the top of the leaderboard amongst AL second basemen. He led the league in UZR with 19.4, and was followed by Ian Kinsler (15.0), Howie Kendrick (14.4), and Ben Zobrist(6.8, but in over 200 less innings than the next closest on this list). In DRS, the same four guys were at the top of the list, but the order was different. In this category, Zobrist led with 17, followed by Kinsler (16), and Kendrick and Pedroia (14 each). According to the FanGraph single-season statistics, these four were very close, which is why the three-season span may shine some light on who was, indeed, the best glove at the position. The top three for UZR since 2009 were Pedroia (31.1), Kinsler (27.3) and Zobrist (20.6). Kendrick finished fifth with 12.4, a run behind Mark Ellis. The top three also remained the same for DRS, with Kinsler finishing atop that list with 46, followed by Zobrist (43) and Pedroia (31). These will be the three I look at with the BR stat. Pedroia had 9 Total Runs Saved (Rtot) in 2011, and 30 since 2009. Kinsler had 10 for 2011, and 33 since 2009, while Zobrist had -2 this year, and just 3 in the past three years. Looking at all of the numbers, Kinsler probably deserved the award, but the underrated second baseman will need to wait until next year for another shot.
Next, I will take a look at the team's breakout star, Jacoby Ellsbury, who took the center field Gold Glove award. Looking first at UZR, the speedy Ellsbury led the field with 15.6. He was followed directly by Franklin Gutierrez, but he only played 92 games, so he couldn't really qualify. The next two who played enough to truly qualify were the other nominees, Austin Jackson and Peter Bourjos, who finished with 7.9 and 7.5 UZR, respectively. Looking next at DRS, Ellsbury falls to the bottom of this threesome. Jackson topped the list with 22 DRS, followed directly by Bourjos at 21, and Ellsbury had only 8. Jackson and Bourjos have only played two years, and Ellsbury missed all of last year, so I am going to have to look at the long-term numbers differently here by averaging their available UZRs to find a general area where they sit. Looking at these numbers, Bourjos and Jackson far exceed Ellsbury's numbers, whose were brought down by a 2009 season in which he had -9.7 UZR. Bourjos had an average of 12 UZR, Jackson was at 6.6, and Ellsbury had 3.1. Looking next at Rtot, Bourjos led that group with 13 in 2011, and 28 in the past two years. Ellsbury had 4 Rtot last season, and -5 in his past two full seasons. Austin Jackson had 7 this past season, but his 2010 brought back his two season total to -1. Looking at the numbers, it seems there is yet another undeserving Red Sox winner, as Bourjos has been putting up impressive numbers, including in this season. I see multiple Gold Gloves in the young center fielder's future.
Finally, I will look at Adrian Gonzalez and his first base compadres. Gonzalez, who has always been known as a top-notch defensive first baseman, indeed led the AL in UZR at first in 2011, finishing at 11.1. He was followed by Mark Teixeira (8.6) and Mark Trumbo (5.7). Looking next at DRS, A-Gon finished second in this category, with Trumbo leading at 7. Gonzalez came in right behind with 6, followed by Daric Barton (4, 1.9 UZR) and Teixeira and Derrick Lee (each with 3, Lee with 3.4 UZR). Looking amongst first basemen who excelled this year, Gonzalez leads the way with 18 total UZR. Barton follows him with 16.3, followed by Trumbo and Teixeira and 6.5 and 6.4, respectively. Barton leads the three-year DRS leaderboard with 26, with Gonzalez (18) and Trumbo (8) coming up behind. Looking at the numbers so far, Gonzalez, Trumbo, Teixeira and Barton are in the hunt for most deserving, although a lot of Barton's cache come's from past performance. Baseball Reference gave Gonzo 15 Rtot this year, and 33 since '09. Looking at the others, BR gave: Trumbo 3 this year, 5 total; Teixeira -1 this year, 14 total; and Barton 1 this year, and 12 total. Keep in mind when seeing these numbers that Trumbo is in just his first full year, and Barton's three year game totals end up more like a two year total, since he has missed a good chunk of times the past couple of years. With these numbers, I would conclude that Gonzalez did deserve the award in a weak class, but may definitely be challenged in the coming years by Trumbo in LAA.
In conclusion, the Red Sox probably only deserved one of the three Gold Gloves they received. This is not to say that Pedroia and Ellsbury are poor defenders. They are both amongst the very best in the league at two prominent positions. However, looking at the numbers that are available, Kinsler and Bourjos probably deserved the nods. Of course, fielding statistics are far from perfect at this stage, so maybe at this time next year, we'll have a better understanding of who the best truly are.