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Gold Glove 2014: The Orioles have three deserving potential winners

The Orioles have three Gold Glove finalists: J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. All three would be deserving winners when compared against their fellow finalists.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Gold Glove award winners will be announced at 7 o'clock tonight on ESPN2. There are three Orioles players among those with a chance to win an award: J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis.

All three of these Orioles are past Gold Glove winners, which is one way to win more Gold Gloves. Once the coaches who vote on the awards deem a player worthy, they will often stick with that player until someone unseats them, creating a new lifetime Gold Glove winner. Hardy and Jones have both won each of the last two seasons at their respective positions.

Note that, while the people at Rawlings are using the term "finalists" to describe these players, this is a fabrication to try to inject some tension in the process. There is no separate round of voting for just the finalists. These are the players who were in the top three in the voting. The winner has been known all along.

Seven coaches from each team are permitted to vote within their league, with the only rule being that they can't vote for one of their own players. The coach vote used to be the entirety of the Gold Glove process. Now, it's 75% of the result, with 25% being a sabermetric component.

How does each Oriole's chances look at winning another Gold Glove award? A position-by-position breakdown of the competition follows.

A couple of notes on the listed stats. DRS = Defensive Runs Saved, a plus/minus metric that gauges plays made compared to other players. UZR = Ultimate Zone Rating, which also measures runs saved compared to the average player. For each of these, the higher, the better. As far as errors and fielding percentage, they're not meaningful in general but they probably do matter to the voting coaches, so I include them below.


Player Innings DRS UZR Errors Fielding %
J.J. Hardy 1257 10 13.9 13 .978
Alcides Escobar 1433.2 -4 1.6 16 .976
Alexei Ramirez 1376.2 -4 -0.7 15 .978

"They" say that it takes three years of defensive data to really make a judgment on a particular player. The Gold Gloves aren't about picking the best defensive player of the last three years, but even if they were, it would be hard to go against the conclusion that this one year of defensive metrics offers to us. Hardy was better in the field than the competition this year and he has consistently been better over the last several years as well.

Coupled with the fact that Hardy has won the last two Gold Gloves in a row, meaning he also has the reputation bonus, it would be a surprise to me if this position goes any different direction.

Verdict: Hardy wins his third straight Gold Glove


Player Innings DRS UZR Errors Fielding %
Adam Jones 1368.1 2 8.3 6 .984
Jackie Bradley Jr. 949 14 15.9 1 .997
Adam Eaton 1043.2 12 -3.3 9 .988

After watching the Royals' Lorenzo Cain catch basically any baseball that was hit in the air to the outfield during the ALCS, it was a surprise to see that he didn't even place in the top three. Some of that may have had something to do with Cain only playing in center field for 723.1 innings in the regular season; as in the playoffs, Cain spent some time in right field.

More of it may have had to do with the reputation factor of opposing coaches not recognizing some guy on an 89-win team who they only see a few times. The voting was completed prior to the playoffs. After his playoff debut, Cain probably got a head start on his Gold Glove 2015 campaign, but that doesn't do anything for him this year.

As for Jones against the two players he is in the top three with here, it's an interesting choice. Compare Jones to the other Adam, Eaton, and you see why defensive metrics within a single season can be curious at times. Eaton is 10 runs better than Jones when it comes to DRS, but 11 runs worse when it comes to UZR. What are you supposed to go with there? Maybe the fact that Jones played the equivalent of 38 full 9-inning games more than Eaton?

When compared to Bradley, that playing time difference is even more stark, with Bradley being short by the equivalent of over 57 full 9-inning games. Bradley played a third of a baseball season less than Jones, probably because Bradley hit .198/.265/.266 for the year. The Gold Glove award should not be for the player who had the best year at the plate - although it's often awarded in this way, to the detriment of its credibility - but if you can't even hit well enough to stay on the field, or indeed at the MLB level at all, shouldn't that matter?

Verdict: Jones wins his third straight Gold Glove, which would make four for his career. Bradley's strong DRS and UZR would mean it's not a surprise if he wins either, but I think Jones gets the benefit of being the reigning Gold Glove winner to continue his tenure, fairly or not.


Player Innings DRS UZR Errors Fielding %
Nick Markakis 1314.1 1 6.2 0 1.000
Kevin Kiermaier 526.1 14 16.0 5 .966
Kole Calhoun 1036.1 2 5.7 1 .996

This is a weird field. Last year's Gold Glove right fielder, Shane Victorino, only played in 30 games, so the hereditary Gold Glove is out. Markakis won a Gold Glove in the past, in 2011, which was not one of his better years according to defensive metrics. Both his DRS and UZR are on the positive side of decent, which hasn't been the case since the 2008 season, the best year of his career.

Markakis also has the feather in his cap of going the whole year without committing an error. Again, that doesn't matter much to you or I, who watched him traverse the sucking mud in the swamps in right field at Camden Yards this year, but it probably does matter to the voting coaches. If he got there, he made a play, and this, combined with his arm strength, is enough to overcome the poor range by these metrics. I am also surprised, and you may be too, that his arm still rates as positive, but it's a +3 in DRS and +5.5 in UZR.

Plus, there's his competition here. The statement, "Nick Markakis was the best defensive right fielder in the AL this year," is an absurd thing to say. And yet, there were only seven AL right fielders who qualified for the batting title. When it comes to defensive metrics, Markakis is in the vicinity of all of those guys, only slightly behind the likes of Calhoun and Nori Aoki. Owing to misspent formative years spent watching Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in action, I would say that it's Markakis up against a bunch of jabronis. You can't give the Gold Glove to a jabroni.

Kiermaier's 526.1 innings in right field amounts to about 58 9-inning games. Again, defensive metrics ought to matter, but so should playing time. Kiermaier played in about one-third of his team's innings in right field. Maybe that was enough to dazzle people into his winning the Gold Glove, but it shouldn't be.

Verdict: Markakis wins his second Gold Glove of his career, and also, I am a total homer.