The Orioles have ended up with a Gold Glove finalist for the 2020 season. I’m as surprised as you are, unless you’re not surprised, in which case I’m more surprised than you. The O’s player who’s made it into the top three in the American League at his position is Anthony Santander in right field. The others in the top three are Clint Frazier of the Yankees and Joey Gallo of the Rangers.
Gold Glove balloting was different in 2020 compared to previous seasons in that there was no balloting at all. The typical year’s award has a voting process that’s weighted 75% to managers and coaches and 25% towards a sabermetric component. In 2020, with teams limited to only playing games within their own division and the same division in the other league, managers and coaches had less of a chance than usual to see the entire league, so the award will be 100% based on the measure of the metrics.
This could produce some interesting results since the popularity contest/who was on a good team element of the award, the “hereditary” nature of the award where certain players just keep winning almost automatically, and the occasional “he had a great year at the plate” element, are all removed entirely from the process.
The reason why I am surprised is that I didn’t think Santander would make any list when he only played 35 games in right field thanks to the oblique injury that cut short his season. Even in a 60 game season, that’s not a lot of games.
The SABR website describes its Defensive Index as follows:
The SABR Defensive Index draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts. The three metrics representing batted ball data include Defensive Runs Saved from Baseball Info Solutions, Ultimate Zone Rating developed by noted sabermetrician Mitchel Lichtman, and Runs Effectively Defended based on STATS Zone Rating and built by SABR Defensive Committee member Chris Dial. The two metrics included in the SDI originating from play-by-play data are Defensive Regression Analysis, created by committee member Michael Humphreys, and Total Zone Rating.
There may not be much suspense about the outcome, given that anyone can go and look and see DRS or UZR on Fangraphs. Santander was solid with +8 DRS in his 2020 action, but only +1.1 in UZR. Frazier had +4 DRS and 3.8 UZR.
Gallo is ahead of both of his competitors in both of these categories, with +12 DRS and +6.1 UZR. One reason he is probably ahead of the other guys is that he played over 450 innings in right field in 2020, where Santander was just about at 300 and Frazier at only 216. In a 60 game season, that is a large chunk of the action.
To qualify for consideration, players had to have at least 265 innings played in the field, and they could only qualify in the position they played the most. Frazier totaled 280 innings counting his time elsewhere in the outfield.
The other components, some of which I believe are less-publicly-available metrics, could still gauge these right fielders differently.
Any one of these three would be a first time Gold Glove winner. The Orioles have not had a Gold Glove winner since Manny Machado took one home at third base in 2015. Machado is also the most recent finalist for the O’s, coming in the top three again at third base in 2017. Machado is a finalist for his new team the Padres in 2020, and former Oriole and 2020 Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop also made it as a finalist.
The White Sox led the American League with five Gold Glove finalists, including two different catchers. There’s one that would never have happened with coaches and managers votes making up 75% of the result. No players from the American League’s World Series representative, the Rays, are Gold Glove finalists. The NL champion Dodgers had finalists in center field (Cody Bellinger) and right field (Mookie Betts).
The winners will be announced on November 3, so you can warm up for watching American election results by watching the Gold Glove results first. Probably Gallo is going to win, so don’t get your hopes up for Santander. Still, it’s fun, and hopefully a good sign for the Orioles outfield defense next year, that Santander made the cut for the top three according to the metrics.