The Gold Glove award finalists were announced this afternoon and two of the top defenders on the Giants made the cut: Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. Brandon Belt does not enjoy the same reputations that either of them do and that’s largely why he didn’t make it into the National League first baseman grouping.
At least, that’s the only explanation that makes sense.
25% of the award is based on the SABR Defensive Index (SDI), which
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.
incorporates a rating for a player’s ability to turn double plays (2B and SS), fielding bunts (primarily P, C, 3B, and 1B) and scoops of throws in the dirt (1B)
You can read more about SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) as well as the SDI here, but suffice it to say: BELT WUZ ROBBED.
The last ranking from SABR for SDI was generated on August 19th. Brandon Belt led all NL first basemen with an SDI of 6.9. The next three on the list were Joey Votto (5.7), Freddie Freeman (5.6), and Anthony Rizzo (5.5), the actual finalists named today. The easy answer here is that Belt simply didn’t play enough games (only 112) – which has some merit – but the numbers he put up in the games he did play are extraordinary.
For instance, he led all NL first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), a fancy way of measuring how many runs a defender prevented because of his fielding ability. You can read more about DRS through MLB.com, but in the meantime, just know that Belt’s 13 Defensive Runs Saved were just one behind the A’s wizard first baseman Matt Olson, who was a finalist (not to be confused with sorcerer supreme Matt Chapman), one more than Freddie Freeman, and three more than Joey Votto.
The stats say Belt was the best first baseman in the National League… the National League coaches who vote for the award did not agree. Now, again, that could simply be a matter of playing time, but that once against just underscores how Posey and Crawford more or less coasted by on reputation.
Although Buster Posey led SABR’s catcher SDI leaderboard by a healthy margin through August 19th (his 5.1 was well ahead of 2nd place Wilson Contreras’ 3.7), his 759.1 innings wound up being the eighth-fewest for the position in the National League. His 10 DRS are impressive, but also just tied for fourth with Austin Barnes. Wilson Contreras of the Cubs wuz robbed here, very clearly, but that doesn’t bother me quite as much.
Meanwhile, Brandon Crawford was 4th in SDI through August 19th and had only 7 DRS (tied for sixth) in the National League. Nick Ahmed and Freddy Galvis (both finalists) are deserving, but Miguel Rojas of the Marlins or Paul DeJong of the Cardinals were probably robbed here.
But I’m okay with that because it benefited the Giants in these cases. Crawford has won the last three shortstop Gold Gloves in the National League, and Buster Posey won in 2016 and has been nominated every year since then. In the case of Brandon Belt, though, he just hasn’t gotten the traction around the league needed to weather an injury-shortened season. Buster Posey obviously has, and he and Crawford have added scene upon scene of amazing defensive plays to their highlight reels over the past 5 years – but so has Brandon Belt!
Problem is, Brandon Belt has missed a lot of baseball in the same amount of time, and “out of sight, out of mind” has only doomed doom his reputation. Still, as much as time has ravaged Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford’s bodies, it hasn’t erased their reputations from the minds of the people who matter when it comes to the all important Gold Glove Award.