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Congratulations to Mike Matheny and Omar Vizquel for winning National League Gold Gloves. Vizquel was one I was actively rooting on, for he was as smooth as $240 worth of pudding, and as consistent as I've ever seen. Every slow chopper over the middle was a play that was expected to be made, which is a set of expectations unfair to any shortstop, but Vizquel transcended that. Balls up the middle, in the hole, poor feeds from second on a double play, ranging back on in-between pop flies; he did it all.

With Mike Matheny, I'm not as convinced. It isn't that I have evidence that contradicts the award, far from it. I just don't see the runs being saved.

"Did you see that?"
"No, what?"
"He just saved another run."
"He did? Damn. Let me turn up the volume, here..."
"Did you see that one?"
"No."
"When you were reaching for the remote. He saved another one."
"Damn."
"How about that one?"
"When?"
"When you looked at me and said 'Damn'."
"Dang it."
This is not a condemnation of Matheny's abilities, but more of a coming out party for my baseball ignorance. I guess I can't tell great catchers from good catchers. I've seen bad catchers. I can spot the stinkers, alright. But give me a guy with a good-not-great defensive reputation, like, oh, I don't know, Yorvit Torrealba, and I can't tell the difference between him and Matheny.

The areas a gold glover should be unquestionably brilliant in:

Blocking the plate

Yeah, Matheny's pretty spectacular when it comes to using his body on tough pitches, and he rarely seems out of position.

Calling a game

The pitching was the Alka-Seltzer in the seagull's stomach for the first part of the year. It improved dramatically. Coincidence, or a new catcher adjusting to his new staff? Matheny believes he was responsible for the ugly start, and also believes his adjustments helped with the improvement. I'm hesitant to heap all of the praise or blame for a pitching staff on a catcher, but also respect the opinion of Matheny on the matter. Matheny did seem to frame pitches well throughout the year.

There were some folks here who took issue with Matheny's game calling this year, claiming A.J. Pierzynski was much more imaginative. That was a pretty bold call that looks pretty good one World Series trophy later. Also, as an aside, Pierzynski is still a jackass.

Controlling the running game

Here's where I really don't see the magic. Matheny was having problems throwing out runners to start the season, but ended the season with respectable totals. I would peg him as good-not-great, and would rather have Yorvit behind the plate with Wily Tavares on first in a playoff game.

The defensive stats conflict as to just how great Matheny is, but they concur he is in the upper strata of catchers. Devotees of defensive Win Shares would toss a set of motel keys at Matheny if given the chance, while the folks at Baseball Prospectus are just consistently impressed. It's no secret where the scouting community stands. So if the scouts and stats agree, it's me that's being obtuse. Mike Matheny was a pretty good addition to the Giants this year. I'm still not wild about the next two years, but his signing has already worked out better than I had thought it would.