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Did Joe Mauer Deserve the Gold Glove?

November 10, 2009

Not only does Joe Mauer have a great bat, but he's got a great glove as well.

The 2009 AL Gold Glove Awards came out today, and Joe Mauer grabbed his second Gold Glove in as many years.  Scanning over the list, it appears that the voters use the same criteria they always do- fielding percentage and reputation.  Neither of which warrants an award that should be handed out based on objective criteria, but it’s to be expected.  I’ll probably write a post on my Gold Glove votes soon, and you can bet that I’m going to be talking extensively about Derek Jeter and the state of fielding metrics at some point in time.  In any case, we have a pretty sound set of defensive performance estimators in systems like UZR and Plus/Minus, but neither system gives a comprehensive measurement for quantifying catcher defense.  UZR doesn’t attempt to model it, while Plus/Minus’ methodology is woefully incomplete.  David Pinto’s Probabilistic Model of Range only measures catcher range (which is great), but as far as I’m aware that data has not been released for the 2009 season just yet.

So we don’t really have a measurement for catchers that’s as “accurate” as other metrics are with the other positions.  Obviously, this means we have to make our own.  And if you’ve been reading this site for a little while, you’ll know that I put together something of an aggregate metric to try and give it a go.  You can call it the RainAZ method, if you’d like (Rally/Pinto/Inaz), or you can just call it an aggregate metric.  Heck, just call it whatever you want.  Anyways, I ran the numbers through the spreadsheet, and these are your AL leaders for 2009 behind the dish:

1. Gerald Laird, +13.3

2. Kenji Johjima, +10.2

3. Rod Barajas, +6.0

4. Joe Mauer, +5.5

If you’d like to exclude Johjima based on playing time, then Mauer rates third.  Laird was by far the best defensive catcher in 2009, but Mauer certainly held his own.  Would I have given him the Gold Glove?  No, but I understand why it was given to him.  And since this system isn’t a definitive one by any means, you could certainly make the argument that Mauer was the best defensive catcher in the AL and I wouldn’t disagree with you.  Here’s a quick little breakdown on how he rated in each category:

Reputation: +1.3

Arm: +0.4

Blocking: +2.4

Errors: +1.4

Solid across the board.  Maybe he wasn’t the best defensive catcher in the AL, but he was certainly one of the best.  So you won’t hear me complaining about him winning it anytime soon.

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