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Just how much better will Patrick Bailey have to hit to be a serious Gold Glove contender?

We’re all thinking it.

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The long-running joke is that in order for a player to win a Gold Glove for his defense, a player has to be a good hitter, too. By season’s end, the San Francisco Giants might very well be able to demonstrate that Patrick Bailey is the best defensive catcher in the National League, but will he have hit enough to warrant serious consideration by voters?

Last year, Alex Eisert explored this joke a bit more for FanGraphs.

[...] Per Rawlings’ official site, Gold Gloves do not take offense into account and are decided in part by a fielder’s SABR Defensive Index, a composite measure of defense that includes six distinct data sources. But there is also a voting component — specifically, the manager and six coaches from each team vote. Besides the inability to vote for their own players or players outside of their league, there are no restrictions on who they can vote for among the qualifiers.


I ran some statistical tests on this year’s and last year’s Gold Glove finalists in order to lend my theory more evidence.


on average, Gold Glove finalists are significantly better hitters than their qualified peers.


Overall, it seems the worst-fielding Gold Glove finalists tended to be the best-hitting. Coupled with the fact that Gold Glove finalists tend to fare better at the plate than other qualified fielders, this leads me to believe that the halo effect helps bolster certain candidacies on the basis of their hitting prowess.

Eisert also mentioned, “For catchers, the Rawlings criterion is that they must have played in at least 69 of their team’s first 138 games to qualify for Gold Glove consideration.” Bailey will hit that mark easily. The Giants have played 115 games and he’s at 63.

I think the Giants know what they’ve got. They took the time to generate some video about this rookie stud defender for consumption during the All-Star break when the Giants had two other players in the All-Star Game.

The industry isn’t ignorant, either. Here’s a segment from last month that fawns over him.

And, just because, here’s the back pick:

In just 63 games, he’s amassed +18.7 Defensive Runs Above Average, which if the SABR math of 10 runs = 1 win is still true means that he’s won the Giants 2 wins above average just with his glove.

It’s also the best number in the entire sport. He’s got the Brewers’ William Contreras — who has played in 33 more games and has 173 more plate appearances — beat by 3.4 runs, approaching half a win better. Contreras has him by 20 points of wRC+, though, and that’s the problem. Bailey’s 2.4 wins above replacement is based almost exclusively on his defense, and given the catching company he finds himself with in the NL, that puts him statistically and emotionally at the back of the pack.

Here are the top five catchers in the National League, sorted by FanGraphs’ WAR:

Sean Murphy (ATL)
142 wRC+ | +13.3 Off | +13.5 Def | 3.8 fWAR

William Contreras (MIL)
117 wRC+ | +5.4 Off | +15.3 Def | 3.4 fWAR

Will Smith (LAD)
135 wRC+ | +16.5 Off | +4.5 Def | 3.4 fWAR

Patrick Bailey (SFG)
96 wRC+ | -2.2 Off | +18.1 Def | 2.4 fWAR

Francisco Alvarez (NYM)
115 wRC+ | +2.0 Off | +10.3 Def | 2.2 fWAR

Just sorted by FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average, it’s

  1. Bailey, +18.1
  2. Contreras, +15.3
  3. Murphy, +14.1
  4. Alvarez, +10.3
  5. Nick Fortes (MIA), +10.1

Like I wrote yesterday about the NL Cy Young, I just assumed the winner has been a foregone conclusion. It’s Sean Murphy, isn’t it? It has to be. Atlanta is unbeatable, Murphy’s performance is incredible. And given the joke plus the research that proves the joke, Bailey’s got no shot, right?

I’m sure there are people already thinking of him as a fringe candidate, but is there even a chance he could wedge himself to the front of the line? Last year, there were 14 first-time winners across both leagues. Maybe the voters are open to new blood!

Last year’s NL winner at Catcher, J.T. Realmuto, is not a contender, but his results — 6.5 fWAR, +18 Defensive Runs Above Average) — are like a combination of Will Smith’s bat and Patrick Bailey’s defense. Does Patrick Bailey need to hit like Will Smith?

Even if he had to, I don’t think he could do it. I just don’t think he has to do that to be a serious contender. Realmuto’s 2023 season was so incredible that it’s unfair to compare, but Sean Murphy’s 2023 seems to keeping pace; so, at the very least that’s Bailey’s main competition. He definitely will not hit like Sean Murphy. Not even close.

But what happens if Bailey does improve his line? Could he exploit a “look what this rookie did in fewer games than the vet [Murphy]?” loophole I just created? The Giants have 47 games remaining. Figure he plays in at least 75% of them, that puts him at 98 on the season. If he’s at +20 or more Defensive Runs Above Average and his batting line has jumped up to say, 7% better than league average, would that make his case undeniable?

Am I grasping at straws here to disprove Sean Murphy’s obvious poll to poll win? Yes. Allow me to continue. Here’s the NL league average right now (100 wRC+):

.250/.323/.415 (.321 wOBA) | 8.8% BB% | 22.5% K% | .165 ISO | .298 BAbip


.262/.309/.411 (.312 wOBA) | 5.2% BB% | 25.9% K% | .150 ISO | .340 BAbip

He’s hitting .203/.281/.257 (.537 OPS) in the second half (23 games, 82 PA), but in 26 August plate appearances, he’s 6-for-20 with 6 walks against 4 strikeouts (.300/.462/.350), which helped raise his plummeting wRC+ from 91 to, as you’ve seen, 97.

Here are some players in the 105-108 wRC+ zone as quick and dirty hitter comps:

Lourdes Gurriel (105), Connor Joe (107), J.D. Davis (108).

Gurriel and Davis are known for their power, and power might be how Bailey can climb the list. Given the competition, I’m not even sure a 10-point increase in wRC+ will be enough to bolster his candidacy. Eisert demonstrates that the 2021 and 2022 Gold Glove finalists had a significantly greater wRC+ than non-finalists (109 to 103 in 21, 110 to 102 in 22).

Willson Contreras of the Cardinals is a much better hitter (116 wRC+) than Bailey, too, but his negative or just barely average defensive value would surely knock him out of the running. That leaves Murphy, Smith, William Contreras, and Francisco Alvarez all ahead of Bailey. But I keep drifting back to Bailey’s profoundly great defense.

Statcast has a quintet of defensive measures that further contextualize Bailey’s greatness:

Catcher’s Caught Stealing Above Average

A Statcast metric designed to express the skill of catchers at throwing out runners on steal attempts, given the specifics of the opportunities they are presented with.

How this works: Each steal attempt (currently at 2B only) is assigned a probability of being successful or not based on several inputs at the time the pitch crosses the plate, most notably: runner distance from second, runner speed, pitch location, pitcher/batter handedness, and awareness of pitchouts or delayed steals. It’s the Statcast translation of the long-time saying “you steal off the pitcher, not the catcher.”

  1. Gabriel Moreno (AZ), +7
  2. Sean Murphy (ATL), +5
  3. Patrick Bailey, +5

Pop Time

measures the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base. Pop Time is a combination of exchange time (how quickly the catcher releases the ball, measured in seconds) and arm strength (velocity of throw, in MPH). Arm strength is measured on “max effort” throws, or the average above a player’s 90th percentile performance.The Major League average Pop Time on steal attempts of second base is 2.0 seconds. Average times are calculated with the following ranges.
Pop Time to 2B: 1.6 sec to 2.5 sec
Pop Time to 3B: 1.2 sec to 2.5 sec
Exchange: .4 sec to 1.3 sec

  1. J.T. Realmuto (PHI), 1.83 sec
  2. Garrett Stubbs (PHI), 1.87
  3. Patrick Bailey, 1.88
  4. Sean Murphy (ATL), 1.89

Catcher Blocking

A Statcast metric designed to express the demonstrated skill of catchers at preventing wild pitches (WP) or passed balls (PB).

How this works: Every pitch is assigned a probability of being a passed ball or wild pitch based upon several inputs, most notably: pitch location, pitch speed, pitch movement, catcher location, and batter/pitcher handedness. Based on that knowledge, each pitch a catcher receives (or fails to) is credited or debited with the appropriate amount of difficulty. For example, if a catcher blocks a pitch that is a PB + WP 10% of the time, he will receive +0.10. If he blocks a pitch that is a PB + WP 90% of the time, he will receive +0.90.

Here’s where he doesn’t dazzle. Bailey’s -2 is just 46th in MLB. Meanwhile, Murphy is +7 (4th in MLB).

Catcher Framing

is the art of a catcher receiving a pitch in a way that makes it more likely for an umpire to call it a strike. This page breaks down the catcher’s view into eight zones around the strike zone and shows the called strike percentage of all non-swings in that zone. Strike Rate shows the cumulative total of all zones. Catcher Framing Runs converts strikes to runs saved on a .125 run/strike basis, and includes park and pitcher adjustments. To qualify, a catcher must receive 6 called pitches per team game.

How to say it: “In 2018, Jeff Mathis converted 55 percent of non-swing pitches into called strikes in the Shadow Zone, the best rate of any catcher in baseball.”

  1. Patrick Bailey, +9
  2. Sean Murphy, +7
  3. Francisco Alvarez, +7
  4. William Contreras, +7

Fielding Run Value

Statcast’s metric for capturing a player’s measurable defensive performance by converting all of Statcast’s individual defensive metrics from different scales onto the same run-based scale, which can then be read as a player being worth X runs above or Y runs below average. Currently, the conversions for those metrics are as follows. (Unless otherwise noted, all metrics are available since 2016.)

Outs Above Average (range): 1 out = .9 run (OF) // 1 out = .75 run (IF)

Fielder Throwing Runs: 1 run = 1 run

Catcher Blocking: 1 block saved= .25 run (available 2018-pres).

Catcher Framing: 1 strike saved = .125 run

Catcher Throwing: 1 SB prevented = .65 run

How to read it: In 2021, Michael A. Taylor had a Fielding Run Value of +23 runs, which came from 15 runs on range and 7 runs via his throwing arm, making him the most valuable defender in baseball that season.

  1. Patrick Bailey, +12
  2. Sean Murphy, +12
  3. William Contreras, +8

There’s also the SABR Defensive Index calculation. In July, they released their partial season measures. Bailey wasn’t on the list, but leading the National League was Arizona’s Gabriel Moreno. Murphy was second. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Sports Info Solutions demonstrated that as great as Moreno was/is, Patrick Bailey, in a very short time, had debuted and caught him.

With all due respect to Diamondbacks catcher Gabriel Moreno and Mets catcher Francisco Álvarez, the best defensive catcher in a promising group of rookie catchers may be Patrick Bailey of the Giants.

Atlanta can’t vote for Murphy and they’re going to get to see a bunch of Patrick Bailey in the next month or so. The Phillies see him next week. Is it a foregone conclusion that the non-Atlanta NL East teams just go with Murphy? Probably. Murphy checks every box. I’m just amazed by how fast Patrick Bailey caught up to the field. He’s legitimately one of the 3-4 best catchers in the game now.