Rawlings announced the 2019 Gold Glove Finalists today, and usually, this gives us time to celebrate that one of the Giants might actually earn a trophy. Gold Glove voting is enormously silly and the awards do a poor job of picking the best defenders. Still, it’s a nice yearly tradition for one of the Giants to be recognized for doing something right. This year, though, the results have just given us more things to be mad about. Here are the finalists for each position. See if you notice anyone missing.
NL: Jack Flaherty, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola
AL: Jose Berrios, Lucas Giolito, Mike Leake
NL: Austin Hedges, JT Realmuto, Yadier Molina
AL: Danny Jansen, Christian Vasquez, Roberto Perez
NL: Paul Goldschmidt, Christian Walker, Anthony Rizzo
AL: Yuli Gurriel, Matt Olson, Justin Smoak
NL: Ozzie Albies, Kolten Wong, Adam Frazier
AL: José Altuve, DJ LeMahieu, Yolmer Sánchez
NL: Trevor Story, Paul DeJong, Nick Ahmed
AL: Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, Francisco Lindor
NL: Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado
AL: Alex Bregman, David Fletcher, Matt Chapman
NL: Juan Soto, David Peralta, Hunter Renfroe
AL: Robbie Grossman, Andrew Benintendi, Alex Gordon
NL: Victor Robles, Lorenzo Cain, Harrison Bader
AL: Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, Mike Trout
NL: Cody Bellinger, Jason Heyward, Bryce Harper
AL: Kole Calhoun, Josh Reddick, Mookie Betts
Not a single Giant! As a team, the Giants finished ninth in the majors in defensive runs saved. You’d think that at least one of them would be good enough to earn a measly nomination, but no. This is the second year in a row the Giants won’t have a winner, and the first time they won’t have a finalist since 2013.
Conspicuously absent from the catching finalists is Buster Posey. Posey ranked third in the majors in defensive runs saved behind Austin Hedges and Roberto Perez. By defensive runs above average, Posey ranked seventh in the majors and fifth in the National League. By FanGraphs’ framing metrics, he was tied for sixth in the majors and fourth in the National League. He threw out 24 of 74 would-be basestealers, putting him a percentage point behind Hedges.
I won’t dispute Realmuto’s or Hedges’ nomination, and I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow if Yasmani Grandal or even Tyler Flowers received the final nod. But Mark Twain once wrote that two things are certain in this life: death and Yadier Molina getting a Gold Glove nomination for no apparent reason. Molina ranked 24th in baseball in DRS, 24th in framing, and 16th in defensive runs above average. He threw out just 8 of 30 would-be basestealers. Sure, you could say his reputation keeps teams from running against him, but maybe his pitchers help him more than others.
While nominations are done by coaches and managers, Rawlings announced that SABR’s defensive index would help decide who would win. SDI is only available through August 18th, but through that time, Posey ranked third while Molina ranked fourth. Maybe Molina overtook him in the final month when Posey didn’t play as often. That’s the only explanation that seems to make any sense. It’s the only metric that Molina even ranks in the top 10 of the majors, but if that’s the metric they’re weighting most heavily so be it.
But then consider the case of Evan Longoria. Longoria led the National League in SDI through August 18th, but he didn’t receive a nomination. Those instead went to Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon, and Josh Donaldson who ranked second, fifth, and twelfth in the NL in SDI respectively. Why use a metric to help decide winners if the coaches and managers aren’t going to look at it when choosing finalists?
Does it ultimately matter that Posey and Longoria didn’t receive nominations? No, not really. Gold Glove nominations are farcical. (Juan Soto was nominated for a Gold Glove! Juan Soto!) Even if the awards were valid, I don’t think Posey or Longoria would have won at either position. Hedges is the deserving winner at catcher, and there are arguments to be made for Grandal or even Flowers to be nominated over Posey. Longoria is a solid defender, but he isn’t a highlight reel defender like Arenado. Donaldson, too, had nearly twice as many DRS as any other third baseman in the NL.
The Giants were a good defensive team in 2019, and they had two players who were in the top three in the league at their position. That hasn’t been recognized by the people who thought Kole Calhoun and Alex Gordon were some of the best defenders in the game. I suppose that’s okay.