Last night, sports equipment manufacturing company Rawlings announced its set of 2015 Gold Glove winners. An ostensibly obvious candidate for the award, Andrelton Simmons, was not among the list of recipients. Instead, San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford was selected in his stead.
If you're reading this, you probably care at least a little bit about Simmons getting continued recognition for his defensive work, and are possibly incensed (to some degree) about last night's snub in this regard. Personally, I'm not particularly "offended" or aggrieved, but I do think this is another case where the "voters," nameless/faceless as they may be, are denigrating the meaning and prestige of the award by whiffing on who gets it. So, the below is a
brief synopsis on why I think Andrelton Simmons should have (again) won the National League Gold Glove for Shortstops.
The first key assumption that I'm making, that I'm not sure the Gold Glove voters are, is that the award should be for defense and nothing else. Playtime considerations should factor in (a player who is consistently good but not great over a longer inning count could warrant consideration over a defensive wizard who only managed to play half a season at a given position), but offensive production, team's success, team/name recognition, and so on, are all irrelevant. I suspect that as far as these latter criteria go, that wasn't really the case with the voters. (Cases in point: Eric Hosmer, who was basically super-average this season, and has been below average for his career; Alcides Escobar, who won because chaos reigns, I guess.)
With that said, there are basically two key inputs into a player's defensive value:
- How hard is the player's position to play (relative to other positions)?
- How well does the player play that position (relative to his peers at the position)?
The SDI is built from two types of defensive metrics — those that come from batted ball location-based data, and those which originate from the play-by-play records of games. We gave more weight (70%) to the batted ball location-based metrics, which evaluate the degree to which a fielder makes plays in specific zones on the diamond. The player's performance is measured in comparison to his peers. The play-by-play based metrics (30% of the SDI) are important in that they approach defensive measurement from an alternative vantage point — a more generalized approach that estimates the number of batted balls hit into a fielder's area.
- 25% based on Brandon Crawford outpacing him in the SDI
- 75% based on ???
Defensive Runs Saved is one of the two most commonly-cited advanced fielding metrics. By DRS, there were three NL shortstops in the upper tier, defensively: Andrelton Simmons (25 DRS runs above average), Nick Ahmed (20), and Brandon Crawford (20). Simmons played more innings at short than either Ahmed or Crawford, but if you adjust their scores to put them on an even innings basis, Simmons still has a slight edge (26.4 to Ahmed's 25.9), while Crawford continues to lag behind (22.5). All of these scores are really good, but Simmons is meaningfully ahead of Crawford via this measure.
I was not able to find a single-season Total Zone leaderboard for all players, but this is one area where Crawford has a definite edge. He's the only shortstop among the top 10, with +19 runs above average. Meanwhile, Simmons, Ahmed, and Hechavarria are at 15, 13, and 14, respectively.
So, here's my question. If we exclude Ahmed and Hechavarria and make this a horse race between Simmons and Crawford, here's what we know:
- Simmons had about 17% more DRS, even on a pro-rated basis, than Crawford;
- Simmons had 47% more UZR, even on a pro-rated basis, than Crawford; and
- Crawford had, at best, a 36% advantage over Simmons in Total Zone.