The 2018 Gold Glove award finalists were released yesterday, with three Arizona Diamondbacks making the cut.
Per MLB.com, Zack Greinke, Nick Ahmed, and Jon Jay are each among the final three at their position for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they face stiff competition, and there’s not a perfect rubric by which managers and coaches select their Gold Glove favorites.
Traditionally, Gold Gloves have been awarded in a king-of-the-hill-style battle royal, wherein defensive reputations are thrown against non-comprehensive defensive statistics, which are pitted against the gut instincts and eye-tests of coaches around the league.
It’s a little like video replay, where there must be ample evidence to overturn the call on the field – but in the case of Gold Gloves, the “call on the field” is the repeat winner. Once a player starts a streak of Gold Gloves, it can be tough to knock them off their pedestal.
Luckily for us, the Arizona Diamondbacks happen to have a reigning champ in-house.
Of the three Diamondbacks in the hunt, Zack Greinke has the best shot at winning in 2018, as he’s won four consecutive NL Gold Gloves. Until there’s a preponderance of evidence suggesting Greinke’s lost a step, he’ll remain the king.
This year, Greinke maintained a perfect fielding percentage for the fourth time in his career, led the NL in range factor per game (1.73), range factor per nine innings (2.47), and putouts (27). In other words, Greinke’s a good defensive pitcher. Voter fatigue could prompt an upset victory by Julio Teheran or Clayton Richard – but if any award is immune to the turnover of voter fatigue, it’s the Gold Glove.
In 2018, Nick Ahmed saved more runs with his defense than any other player in the National League (21 DRS). By UZR, he finished third (4.6 UZR) behind Paul DeJong (7.1 UZR) and Dansby Swanson (5.3 UZR) – but neither DeJong nor Swanson are finalists.
By defensive metrics, then, Ahmed is a shoo-in. Of course, Trevor Story led the NL in DRS last season, Corey Seager in UZR – and Brandon Crawford won his third consecutive Gold Glove award. The finalists in competition with Ahmed this year? The Padres’ Freddy Galvis and – you guessed it – Brandon Crawford.
Offensively, Jon Jay was fourteen percent below average this year (86 wRC+). He hasn’t been a decidedly above-average offensive player since 2014 with the Cardinals (115 wRC+). Simply, 33-year-old Jon Jay was a major leaguer in 2018 because of his defense.
Jay’s nomination here feels more like a lifetime achievement award than a legitimate nomination, as he only appeared in fifty-four games in right field this season. Which is not to say he wasn’t solid yet again: Jay accumulated 6 DRS and 5.8 UZR this season while playing all three outfield positions for the Royals and Dbacks. Still, Jay’s defensive capabilities aside, Jason Heyward is the odds-on favorite to take home the hardware for the fifth consecutive season.
The Rawlings Gold Glove Awards aren’t always given to the top overall defensive player at each position – though that is indeed the intent. Stay tuned to find out this year’s winners, announced on Sunday, November 4th.