Three Royals Take Home Gold Gloves
Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
All year, the Royals boasted one of the best defenses in baseball, and that elite defense took the national stage during their magical playoff run. While the playoffs weren’t factored into the Gold Glove voting, baseball fans everywhere shouldn’t be surprised to see several Royals taking home hardware for their run prevention.
For the second consecutive year, three Royals have been awarded Gold Gloves for their defensive excellence. Alex Gordon won his fourth straight Gold Glove in left field, while Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer each won their second straight award. Alcides Escobar just missed out on a first Gold Glove thanks to J.J. Hardy‘s presence in the American League.
For Gordon, this announcement came with all of the surprise of the sun rising in the east. No other left fielder in the league approaches Gordon’s level in the field. His Defensive Runs Saved total of 27 more than doubled that of the second player on the list, Yoenis Cespedes, and it was the same story in Ultimate Zone Rating (25 to 10.1). He made difficult plays look easy, and he did it while chewing gum and blowing bubbles.
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He also made an impact with his arm, despite his modest 8 assist total. So many runners were deterred from advancing solely because of Gordon’s arm strength and accuracy. Gordon is one of the best defenders in baseball, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes home the Platinum Glove award, as well.
Perez edged out Yan Gomes and Alex Avila this year, putting up strong defensive numbers even while playing seemingly every inning of every game. He threw out 30% of would-be basestealers, and tacked on 7 pickoffs. Perez saved 8 runs above average according to DRS (best in the league), and allowed only 5 passed balls all year, the 4th-lowest total among qualified AL catchers. That, despite catching 1248.2 innings, almost 130 more than the next catcher on the list.
Some of Perez’s defensive reputation may be a bit overstated at times, and he’s not an elite pitch framer, but he handles the pitching staff extremely well, and for a bigger player, he moves quickly behind the plate. In the World Series it took an exceptional play to throw out Gregor Blanco on a bunt that landed between the plate and the mound, and Perez made it effortlessly.
Hosmer’s defensive prowess isn’t appreciated as much by advanced metrics, as DRS rates him slightly above average, while UZR puts him just below average. He did struggle with errors at times this season, but Hosmer still managed to play strong defense overall. He finished second in the league with 38 scoops, just 4 behind James Loney, despite playing 200 fewer innings at first, and in front of a fly ball pitching staff. This probably says a bit about the throwing accuracy of the Royals’ infield as well, but Hosmer’s ability to pick the ball out of the dirt is definitely his best asset.
Like Perez, Hosmer’s defense may be overrated by some, and his range isn’t great, but he does make the rest of the infield slightly better with his athleticism and scooping ability. He also did well at fielding the balls in his zone, as his Revised Zone Rating (a measure that tells how often a ball hit into a fielder’s zone is successfully converted into an out) was .813, right in line with the top first basemen in the league.
While Escobar was possibly deserving, it’s hard to argue with handing the award to Hardy, who is a phenomenal defender, even with his awkward-looking throwing motion. The real snub in the Gold Glove process was Lorenzo Cain, who didn’t qualify for the award in center field or right field because he didn’t accumulate 75% of his innings at a single position. Hopefully he opened enough eyes during the Royals’ playoff run to convince those in charge to reconsider that requirement before next season.