Margaret, Are You Grieving?

November 7, 2018

It’s always (well, since a few minutes ago) seemed dumb to me to vote on the Gold Glove awards the way we have, so I devised an only slightly different system to give us better results. Not very sabermetric, but just applying a little numerical common sense.

The really dumb part, which hasn’t actually been in force since Bill Clinton’s second term, used to be to give out three awards for outfield defense to the three best centerfielders in a league rather than one award apiece to the best centerfielder, rightfielder and leftfielder, presumably on the basis of being unable to locate a halfway-decent fielding LFer. After all, if he was halfway decent, why would he be in LF? As late as 1998, we had three fulltime CFers get the GG awards for "best three outfielders." (I get Edmonds, Griffey, and Lofton in 1998 as the last all-CF GG squad, but maybe I missed someone. Maddox, Geromino, and Cedeno in 1976 is the last NL one I could find. Gerald Ford was President then. Or maybe Millard Fillmore.) Anyway, we’ve stopped doing that really stupid stuff, but fielding awards still seem poorly thought out to me.

My chief quarrel is quantitative.  Let me illustrate using my all-time favorite fallacy of argumentation, the always popular reductio ad absurdum:  if a Willie Mays or Andrew Jones or Jackie Bradley Jr. one year, at the top of his defensive game, played his usual spectacular centerfield through April but then suffered a season-ending injury, would you still vote for him as that season’s GG CFer? Maybe you would, if you had your brains scooped out and placed in the jar labelled "Deviant Brain Sample," but to me, it’s too obvious even to ask. Of course you wouldn’t. Yes Willie Jones Jr. is still the league’s best CFer, presumably, but HE DIDN’T ACTUALLY PLAY CENTERFIELD IN THE SEASON IN QUESTION, so he’s ineligible for the award. OK, now getting reductioed only a little less absurdly, how about if he got injured in June or in August? There needs to be some minimum of innings in CF before you’re eligible for the award, but too often the GG is won by the guy with a reputation, rather than by the guy who actually had a killer year fielding. I wonder which of Brooks Robinson’s 16 consecutive GGs actually represent an off-year defensively—God knows BRobby had a few offensive off-years mixed in there. Nothing to be ashamed of, but we don’t give him the MVP in 1963 just because he had a terrific batting year in 1962 and would again in 1964, do we?  What are the odds that every season, he was actually the best fielding 3bman in the AL, or that Mays really out-fielded Curt Flood, Vada Pinson, Bill Virdon, and Richie Ashburn for 12 straight seasons? You’ve gotta figure that there were a couple of "Lifetime Achievement Awards" mixed in there.

So what I’d suggest is simply listing the league’s CFers on the ballot in order of innings at that position, and asking voters to move them up or down, for reasons of their own. A voter could, if he wanted to, move Willie Jones Jr. from 28th place to 1st place, but would have to fill in the mandatory space marked "Reason." Without a reason, the player remains in the slot he’s in. If you really want to argue that Jones accomplished more defensively for his team in his 35 innings in CF than the guy who led the league in innings played, ok, but I’m guessing few voters want to justify that argument.

If someone leads the league in innings played, that means that his manager at least considers him a pretty fair fielder. I never understood the whole "Gold Gloves for Guys Who Barely Played the Position" reasoning:  how likely is it that the guy who played half of his team’s innings played over twice as well as the guy who played 162/9? Isn’t durability a factor in defensive contributions? A big factor, perhaps?

My other chief complaint (maybe I should use that as my name here: Chief Complaint. That’s almost as good as Judge Mental, which I did use on another messageboard) concerns players who win Gold Gloves with their bats, and I suppose the one complaint argues against the other: it’s entirely possible, under my system, that a GG would GGo to someone whose defense was shoddy but who stayed on defense 162/9 because of his batting prowess. Unlikely, because he’d leave a bunch of games for late-inning defense, but still. That’s where my "Reason For Slot-Change" would come in: all the voters would do is write in "The dude made 114 errors, and had the range of a caterpillar! GMAFB!" and move him down 32 slots.

The number of innings would also help make up voters’ minds. Face it, no one actually sees every play by every fielder in the league anyway, so most voters are basically guessing which of the not-totally-incompetent fielders he’s going to cast his ballot for. So if you’re looking at a ballot that lists

 

Centerfielder

Innings played

Millie Ways

1331.3

Backie Jradly Jr.

1229

Jandrew Ones

1199

Furt Clood

1182.7

Baul Plair

1105

Ed Jimmonds

1080.7

 

and you really can’t make up your mind which one to vote for, I’d imagine the "Innings played" category would be a big help. At least you’d probably be able to lop off Plair and Jimmonds on the grounds that they played over 200 fewer innings than Ways did. If you want to make the case for Jradley over Ways, you’d need to be powerfully persuaded of Jradley’s clear superiority to the Hey Say Kid. If they’re roughly equal, subjectively speaking, you’d have to give your vote to Ways, it seems to me.

I wonder what the Gold Gloves would look like if we simply awarded one to each of the nine players in each league who logged the most innings at each position. You couldn’t call them "Gold Glove" awards any more—maybe they’d be "Iron Man" Awards, which would actually fit neatly with the metallic imagery of Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, Copper-Attitude Trophies, Lead-Follow-or-Get-Outta-the–Way Awards, etc. (Down the line, we could see the Freddie Mercury Award, for the most flamboyant gay player at a position, the Tin Badge Award for the most effective leadership at a position, the Bronze Age award for the best old player at a position, etc.)  For a large number of these Iron Man Awards, most years, I’ll bet the winner would actually be the best fielding player at a number of positions, or at least arguably the most valuable fielder at that position. There’s a good reason someone plays the most innings at a position, after all.

When I was reviewing the "GGs for 3 CFers" program, I wondered why we never did anything like that for infielders: instead of a Gold Glove for 1bmen, 2bmen, etc., what if we just handed out GGs for the four best-fielding infielders in each league?

This isn’t so dumb—certainly no dumber than the "GGs for 3 CFers" program. Most years, I’d imagine, the four infield awards would go to the four best fielding shortstops in each league, which kinda makes sense in a stupid way. Think of it like this: if you had a 200-man roster, your pick of all of MLB, and you were making late-game substitutions with a big lead, wouldn’t it be very likely that your four best fielding infielders would all be nominal shortstops? Or if you were playing a normal 25-man roster and you could fill it with any players you liked, but the object of the game was to give up 0 runs, wouldn’t you play four shortstops and three centerfielders?

(That’s a kind of cool idea, actually:  one team of sluggers vs. another team of GG fielders and Cy Young candidates, and the game is over as soon as a run scores.  Probably have to play a shortened game to make a contest of it—four innings, say, or three—but you could compensate by playing triple-headers every day. Of course some games would be over on pitch #1, so a triple-header could conceivably be very short.  I’d pay a dollar to see that. Tweaked properly, that’s actually a hell of a game, in a nutty sort of way. To sell it to fans, so that they wouldn’t feel short-changed paying full price for a triple-header that went only 7 innings, you could play a minimum number of innings, let’s say 9, however many "games" that would require. Personally, I’d be rooting for the defensive team, who never to get to bat, of course, winning by holding the slugging team to 0 runs. Kinda exciting, edge of your seat stuff on every pitch.)

Can you think of a shortstop who wouldn’t be able to play first base very well, given a little practice? Most of the shortstops I can remember who shifted over to first base were pretty good at it, certainly no worse than they were at shortstop, and some were gifted first-basemen. If we were just abstractly awarding fielding excellence in general, the fourth-best shortstop is going to be a better fielder than the best-fielding first-baseman in the league, isn’t he? There’s something perverse about Gold Gloves for first-basemen, no? Sorta like "Smartest in the dummy row" at school, not much to brag about, considering the low level of at least half the competition, who are playing first base only because there’s no place else in the lineup to hide them.

Anyway, that’s my idea here: to favor the guy who leads the league in innings played at each position, or at least make him the default, in the Gold Glove balloting. Maybe that’s actually how it works-- who knows how the voters operate?  But I would either make "leading the league in innings played" an award in itself, equal to if not better than the Gold Glove award, which are still sometimes won by good-hitting fielders over better-fielding players,  or at least begin the discussion by noting that a huge lead in innings played makes a fielder valuable in itself.

 
 

COMMENTS (49 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
clarifying:
I didn't put it well about it being said "way not strongly enough that a traditional or common baseball belief is wrong."
I didn't mean it how it looks.
I meant without nearly enough support. (IMO of course)
1:27 PM Nov 12th
 
MarisFan61
Maybe it'll be helpful (not to mention less uninteresting) to note that as with many such things, there's a subtext.

When you see, let's say, Rick Santorum and David Axelrod on a panel, you know that Santorum will defend the Republican idea and Axelrod will defend the Democratic idea, and not just because that's their job but because (presumably) they deeply believe it.

There's a general baseball thing where (I think it's fair to say) Steven and I are in opposite camps.
Almost armed camps. :-)

When it comes to debunking traditional baseball beliefs (or also newer things that are now commonly being done by major league teams, but for the thing we're talking about, "traditional" will do), I'm among those here who require a much higher level of evidence (not necessarily proof) than most. I'm much less quick to conclude, "Yeah, it's bullshit what they've been thinking and doing." When I see something here that says too facilely (i.e. adverb of facile) :-) and way not strongly enough that a traditional or common baseball belief is wrong, I'll point that out. I think I'm usually the main one who does.
I think it's almost my job. :-)

There are many issues where this comes up: importance or unimportance of batting order, "intangibles," defensive value of a catcher....
This thing of lefty advantage in playing first base -- I don't think it's come up before, but of course it's a reasonable question. I just don't think that the "things" Steven said come close to disposing the traditional belief. In general I think it's fair to say that on the scale of "readiness to conclude that a traditional or common baseball belief is mistaken," Steven is among the most ready among us. To that extent, he and I are on opposite ends of that scale, and hence, what's going on here.
1:16 PM Nov 12th
 
MarisFan61
Better way for anyone to comment, if you wish:
Do you think Steven's post and details [i]do[/] cover the subject and argue well that the traditional belief about being left-handed being advantageous for playing 1st base is mistaken?

I said it doesn't.
He says he doesn't know what I'm talking about.
11:49 AM Nov 12th
 
Steven Goldleaf
OK, fine by me--an open admission that you can't articulate your thoughts even a little bit. "Spoonfeed" = Maris talk for "supply a single specific instance of what I think I disagree about."

If anyone else wants to take a shot at telling me what, in a better life, MarisFan might be trying to say here, please feel free. Or tell me, better yet, what you find arguable. Happy to clear "things" up, once I know what those are.
10:24 AM Nov 12th
 
MarisFan61
(I'm done with this -- won't spoon-feed. If anything I've gone on way too long with the back-and-forth.)​
8:41 PM Nov 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
SIGH

Name one I didn't deal with (and that you think I should have dealt with, because it's true and important).

Or just go on about the "things" as if anyone has a clue what you're yammering about.
3:50 PM Nov 11th
 
MarisFan61
*sigh*

What I said was that the "things" you mentioned don't cover the subject.

That means: any and all of the specifics that you mentioned in that post -- any of them, all of them, taken together, and, per what I said, they don't cover the subject (but you concluded stuff as though they do), plus, some of the key ones, you didn't really deal with; you just dismissed them.

Please don't ask further for clarification. I do think it's all right there, and was from the start.
3:06 PM Nov 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
"aren't" rather than "...are limited to playing 1b?"
2:41 PM Nov 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
OK, your comment popped up while I was typing.

Not very helpful, though, to reproduce my entire post and say that it constitutes the "things." There are a lot of "things" in that one post. Why don't you pick out the one you disagree with most, and we can go from there. Lefties aren't limited to OF, 1B and P? Sluggers who don't run well are limited to playing 1B? Vic Power wasn't righthanded? I have no idea what you're referring to as wrong or incorrect or misleading. Every word of the passage you quote seems resistant to factual challenge.
2:40 PM Nov 11th
 
MarisFan61
Sorry for the typo - the beginning of my copy/paste of Steven should be "The"
2:36 PM Nov 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Your inability (I suspect "stubbornness") to specify what "things" you're pointing out speaks scathingly about your sincerity in having a discussion. I wrote a lot of "things" in my article, and asked politely for some specificity so I could examine what you mean. If your response to my now-repeated request to have "things" defined even a little bit is tell me "Nuh-uh, you tell ME what 'things' I'm referring to," I must conclude you'd rather be vague and mysterious than have me respond to your point, whatever it may be.

In fact, if anyone BUT MF61 knows what the hell he means, I'd love to read your best guesses.
2:36 PM Nov 11th
 
MarisFan61
For ease of reference (mainly for others who might be looking, who, unlike Steven and me, have no particular reason to just be remembering those posts):

From Steven's post:

he lefty stuff is bunk, IMO. I mean, it's an advantage, but a really tiny one. The reason 1Bmen are often lefties is mostly because they can't play the other infield positions well, and often can't play the outfield well (if they're huge guys who don't run, for example, or can't possibly make a 200-foot throw or judge fly balls)--there's very little positive advantage in being lefty to play 1B. Many GG 1Bmen have been righties, and no one ever said "OMG! If only Hodges or Power or George Scott threw lefty--then they could field 1B REALLY well!" So let's just skip that whole line of reasoning, ok? Now, did you ever see a SS do a 1Bman-like stretch and scoop at second base on a forceout play? I have, several times in this post-season alone, and I was fully satisfied that they totally had that in their skill-set when needed, which it sometimes is. I don't buy it that 1B men have a special ability to stretch and scoop that SSs lack, other than whatever constant practice at it gives them--I'm totally positive that every single SS in MLB could master the stretch and scoop halfway through spring training, if he wanted to. So what exactly are the other skills at playing 1B? Handling hot line drives? Check. Ranging to your right to grab grounders? Check. Throwing 90 feet to second base accurately and well? Check. Popups? Check....

From my reply (where I said about the "things"):

-- The things you mentioned don't cover the whole subject.
-- Several of the things you did mention, you didn't really deal with; you just tossed them away and sort of changed the subject in the middle of it, saying that shortstops (etc.) can make those plays without dealing with the "lefty" thing.

2:34 PM Nov 11th
 
MarisFan61
I think it's clear what I meant. Look back at that post of yours, and see.
If you can't tell, I don't understand it -- and in fact, if so, your inability to understand that would become even more salient than the errors that I think are present in what you said there.
1:39 PM Nov 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
You seem to think people can read your read your mind, when we can only read your posts. If you don't want to be more specific than "things' and "come on" then I can't help you understand. I stand by every"thing" I write, and am glad to explain them further to those who want an explanation. But if all you want is to say "I disagree with you in general" then you've already expressed that thought and no explanation is needed.
3:07 AM Nov 11th
 
MarisFan61
Come on. :-)

The things you mentioned in the post we've been talking about.
10:21 PM Nov 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
What "things" are you referring to?
7:11 PM Nov 10th
 
MarisFan61
I'll answer just broadly, since that's just how I was approaching it to begin with, and which is the initial way I try to approach everything (baseball-wise and otherwise) -- and unless that doesn't feel satisfactory or unless it's a work thing or something where I need to go deeper, I don't.

There was more than one "weak point in your reasoning process."
Broadly, it was of two types:
-- The things you mentioned don't cover the whole subject.
-- Several of the things you did mention, you didn't really deal with; you just tossed them away and sort of changed the subject in the middle of it, saying that shortstops (etc.) can make those plays without dealing with the "lefty" thing.

Remember, I'm not contesting the idea that most if not all middle infielders could play shortstop at least adequately (although I do disagree with you about the height thing; actually more specifically it's a "reach" thing). What I objected to was your calling the lefty thing "bunk."
6:23 PM Nov 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
That was to Maris, not Brock, but I'll take it as a provisional answer. So let me ask you: since we literally do not see lefties playing 2b, ss, or 3b EVER (practically speaking--please don't flood me with "NO!! Joe Dickwad, a lefty, played two innings at 3b in 1887 for the Podunk Bloodcats!") why do we see righties starting for MLB clubs routinely at 1B, often winning GGs for their efforts? To use steve161's ludicrous example, why even ASK Mike Piazza to play 1b, if he doesn't want to and has the perfect squelcher to the suggestion: "WHAT? Are you crazy? I'm a righty? Everybody knows that righties can't play first base? How can you possibly expect me to play a position where it's impossible for me to throw to second base on a grounder to first base?" blablabla. This issue never even came up as a deterrent in the Piazza to 1B issue. I'm sure you found that play tricky, but MLB athletes overcome such levels of difficulty routinely--there are literally thousands of innings logged at 1B by righthanded fielders every single year, by clubs that have plenty of lefties in their system vying for the job. Simply would not happen if the pivot were nearly as much of a problem as you maintain.

But the strongest point I have is the fact that, for whatever reason, lefties can only play 1B and the outfield (again, practically speaking on the MLB level). If you're lefthanded, and you're slow or otherwise unsuited for outfield, and you can slug a little--three IFs that apply to many players with MLB-ability at bat--you are a first baseman. Period. No other viable option. So the majority of firstbasemen are lefties because they can't be put at any other position, and the extra "problem" of pivoting to 2b (a "problem" that didn't present much of a barrier to recent NL GGers like Goldschmidt, Derrek Lee, Votto, Freeman, Pujols et al.) is a very minor excuse, not a real issue.​
3:45 AM Nov 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I would be curious what you think the weak point in my reasoning process regarding the lefty thing. Please explain, at length if you like.
3:22 AM Nov 10th
 
Brock Hanke
Steven - First, I apologize for misspelling your name in my last post. Although my highest level of play was college intramurals, I did play some amount of 1B (normally, I'm used at catcher). Talking with righties who were playing first, I discovered that the thing that they thought was hardest for them to do was start the 3-6-3 double play. It's a very natural throw for a lefty, but a righty 1B has to spin to get the throw going in the right direction, just as lefties struggle badly with the DP pivot. (I think that 2B is the only position a lefty cannot play well, because 6-4-3 and 5-4-3 DPs are numerous; the 3-6-3 version comes up many many fewer times.)
3:13 AM Nov 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Oh, I did think you were addressing a broader issue than that. I feel even more strongly that the lefty thing is a thimbleful of nothing.
7:23 PM Nov 9th
 
MarisFan61
Steven: You mistook my comment.
As I think is clear (if you look back), all I was addressing was your thing that being a lefty 1B is just a tiny advantage at most.
6:35 PM Nov 9th
 
TomStrother
A classic example of a player winning on reputation comes from the ‘99 Rangers. Rafael Palmeiro came back to Texas from Baltimore where he had won the Gold Glove the previous two years. Because of injuries of one kind or another, he only played 28 games at first, the rest as DH. But he hit 47 homers, drove in 148 runs and hit .324. He won the Gold Glove again, even though Lee Stevens played 133 games at first and hit 24 homers himself. He may have fielded at Gold Glove level himself. As I recall Palmeiro was kind of embarrassed by this award.
6:02 PM Nov 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
One example, MarisFan61, that you might appreciate: I think Derek Jeter would have made an EXCELLENT 1Bman, if needed. The parallels between Jeter and Piazza are instructive--to me, at least, though they diverge sharply where the issue of shifting to 1B late in their careers. Both were doubted by some observers, to be able to stay with their demanding defensive assignments--unlike Jeter, Piazza was asked by his team to make the move, and did so, very poorly. If Jeter had been asked to by the Yankees, I have very little doubt that he could have played 1B and played it very well. (My view of Piazza is that he could have played 1B, though not necessarily with Jeter's skill, if he'd wanted to.) Maybe there's a whole article in this topic--I see them as remarkable similar players in large and small ways.
4:44 PM Nov 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks for your well-intended cautionary advice. I am very rarely filled with confidence in my own opinions--by nature, I'm a fount of self-doubt, open-mindedness, entertainment of alternate perspectives, a veritable champion of heeding the views of others.

But some things fill me with confidence, and this is one of them. My degree of certainty here, somewhat to my surprise, is on the order of the question of whether rain typically falls upwards or downwards. My firm belief is that the ratio of MLB shortstops who can play 1B with at least professional competence, given a few weeks of instruction and practice is approximately the same (roughly in the high 90%s) as that of MLB 1Bmen who CANNOT take over as their teams' regular shortstops. You might find one who can (or who can't) do what I'm saying, but those are very few and very far between.
3:41 PM Nov 9th
 
MarisFan61
Steve161: Piazza-to-first-base is Exhibit A for me each and every time I see material like this.

------------

Steven Goldleaf: Astonishingly it looks like you genuinely really are so sure that the "lefty" thing about playing first base is total bunk, and that your reasoning covers the subject.

(Don't be.)
11:54 AM Nov 9th
 
Brock Hanke
Stephan - Good article. But my memory, such as it is, says the the change in outfield Gold Gloves went from "one LF, one CF, and one RF" to "The Three Best Outfielders, no matter which particular spot they were playing(as opposed to just taking the best 3 CF)". The loading up of center fielders is simply that the top three CF actually ARE all three better than the best LF and RF. There may be a very few corner outfielders to deserve a Gold Glove, but one will pop up eventually.
11:40 AM Nov 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
No, although I remember that fiasco well. Catcher is off the defensive spectrum--you'd never (well, Biggio) even think about playing a C at 2B, most times 3B (though obviously smack in the middle of the spectrum) is too difficult. Catcher is very demanding of high-level fielding skills, but not transferable to (or from) any other position--its skills are just off the scale.

Also, as I recall, Piazza went to 1B kicking and screaming, not exactly what you're looking for in a player shifting positions. I always thought he could have done if he'd really wanted to. Not saying he was deliberately making it look harder than it was, and not saying he was a big, selfish baby who put his own interest (lifetime HR record while playing C) ahead of his team, but--oh, hell, I will say it.
9:08 AM Nov 9th
 
steve161
Mike Piazza trying to be a first baseman. Granted that a catcher's skills are even more specialized than a shortstop's, doesn't that failure suggest that there is more to first base than you are crediting?​
8:53 AM Nov 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Of course the two positions are DIFFERENT. It's a strawman argument to show that I (or anyone) said otherwise. But none of the skills you describe are difficult for a MLB shortstop to learn. Sometimes as with A-Rod, it takes time to master them, but virtually all moves rightward on the infield defensive spectrum are easily do-able, given practice. (Moves leftward are difficult, often to the point of impossibility.) This is one of the first universal truths I learned from reading Bill, and one of the most broadly applicable. You might find an exception here or there--an oddball shortstop who can't get the hang of catching the ball pivoting on the DP with his back to 1B (but even that play would come up once in a while playing SS) but I can't think of one practical example.
6:22 AM Nov 9th
 
steve161
There are a few plays that a 1B makes that a SS doesn't: charging a bunt, chasing a foul pop-up almost straight back over his shoulder, handling long throws in the dirt. The footwork around the bag is also different.

But it's a silly discussion. All four infield positions have their specific requirements: the second baseman's double play pivot while moving to the bag in the same direction as the runner, the third baseman handling a hot shot from a position on or inside the baseline...

Alex Rodriguez was an excellent shortstop, but it took him more than a full season to adapt to third base.
5:46 AM Nov 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Sorry--I meant to italicize and underlined instead. Second try:

Imagine that the object of the game were to shut out the other team. (Game is over as soon as the first run crosses the plate.) How long would you suppose these games would last, on average? Two innings? Three? How about if instead of regular MLB teams, you just played one team of All-Star sluggers vs. a team of closers and aces whose fielders were all Gold Glovers, and the first team just batted while the other team played in the field? Hitting Fools win if a run scores, Defensive Wizards win if a run doesn’t. Where would you set the length of these games so that the Fools would score a run half the time and the Wizards would shut them out half the time?
4:54 AM Nov 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Rather than game the oddball situation I describe above with my Strat-o-matic set, I decided to Hey Bill it. In case Bill doesn't respond, I'll paste it in here first:


,"Imagine that the object of the game were to shut out the other team. (Game is over as soon as the first run crosses the plate.) How long would you suppose these games would last, on average? Two innings? Three? How about if instead of regular MLB teams, you just played one team of All-Star sluggers vs. a team of closers and aces whose fielders were all Gold Glovers, and the first team just batted while the other team played in the field? Hitting Fools win if a run scores, Defensive Wizards win if a run doesn’t. Where would you set the length of these games so that the Fools would score a run half the time and the Wizards would shut them out half the time? "

If any of you guys want to take a shot at it, be my guest. More fundamentally, the problem is: Is there actually an answer to this question or are we all pulling guesses out of our nether-regions?
4:52 AM Nov 9th
 
Steven Goldleaf
The lefty stuff is bunk, IMO. I mean, it's an advantage, but a really tiny one. The reason 1Bmen are often lefties is mostly because they can't play the other infield positions well, and often can't play the outfield well (if they're huge guys who don't run, for example, or can't possibly make a 200-foot throw or judge fly balls)--there's very little positive advantage in being lefty to play 1B. Many GG 1Bmen have been righties, and no one ever said "OMG! If only Hodges or Power or George Scott threw lefty--then they could field 1B REALLY well!" So let's just skip that whole line of reasoning, ok? Now, did you ever see a SS do a 1Bman-like stretch and scoop at second base on a forceout play? I have, several times in this post-season alone, and I was fully satisfied that they totally had that in their skill-set when needed, which it sometimes is. I don't buy it that 1B men have a special ability to stretch and scoop that SSs lack, other than whatever constant practice at it gives them--I'm totally positive that every single SS in MLB could master the stretch and scoop halfway through spring training, if he wanted to. So what exactly are the other skills at playing 1B? Handling hot line drives? Check. Ranging to your right to grab grounders? Check. Throwing 90 feet to second base accurately and well? Check. Popups? Check. The ability to play 1B, in short, is contained WITHIN the skill-set needed to play SS. Cal was capable of every single skill that Keith had, and then some. In an open competition for the job, I think Cal would put Keith on the bench, and it wouldn't be a close call. If nothing else, he's got about 4 inches in height over him, and we all understand what a great advantage height is in a 1Bman, right?

Trying reciting "goldengrove" with a Japanese accent--I did that in college studying Hopkins, and I got something like "golden glove" out of it. I liked the idea of Gerard Manley Hopkins working baseball into one of his intricate tongue-twisting poems. It's also just a beautiful, sad, profound piece of work.
3:34 AM Nov 9th
 
MarisFan61
BTW, how about explaining the title?
(I went and looked at the sonnet -- which I'd never heard of, nor of Hopkins -- and still don't get it.
I see that Rich did, apparently without much work.)​
9:34 PM Nov 8th
 
MarisFan61
Fair enough. :-)

Who would you bet on to be the better 1B, Keith, or Cal?

I'd lay big odds on it being Keith, including but not only because of being lefty.

I'd also lay big odds on Vic Power being better. Sure, the principle of "left side-right side" of the defensive spectrum holds true (I can never remember which is which), i.e. that the more important side is more demanding and that the good fielders over there are just simply better fielders than the guys on the other side and could probably play those other guys' positions better than they do. But there's also the factor of each position involving particular kinds of demands, and some players just happen to be unusually well suited to the positions. Keith was one such guy at 1B (likewise Vic Power), and I don't think it's likely that your average tall real good SS would play 1B better than him.​
9:06 PM Nov 8th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Yes, I was being silly, steve, in imagining Kingman at SS. But the question of Hernandez is still open: obviously you don't want to put a tiny guy at 1B if you can help it, and Rizzuto is very short, so no. But if you've got 4 GG-level shortstops on your squad, one of them (Cal Ripken?) will be taller than Hernandez, and I'm not ready to say that Ripken couldn't play 1B just as well as Hernandez, if not better.
5:14 PM Nov 8th
 
steve161
The point about defensive innings is more pertinent to the Fielding Bible Awards than to the Gold Gloves, especially at catcher.

The question isn't whether Dave Kingman could play shortstop better than Phil Rizzuto--nor is it whether Phil Rizzuto could play first base better than Dave Kingman. We're talking about Gold Gloves. So the question is whether Phil Rizzuto could play first base better than Keith Hernandez. Obviously, the answer is Hell No.
3:24 PM Nov 8th
 
OldBackstop
Not to inject a dousing of reality here, but the current Rawlings minimums to qualify are thusly:

• All pitchers must have pitched in at least 142 innings by his team’s 142nd game;

• A catcher must have played in at least half of his team’s games by his team’s 142nd game (a minimum of 71 games);

• All infielders and outfielders must have played in the field for at least 713 total innings through his team’s 142nd game: this equates to playing in the field for approximately 7.5 innings per game in approximately 67% of his team’s games by his team’s 142nd game; this ensures that only full-time players are considered);

• All infielders and outfielders with at least 713 total innings played qualify at the specific position where he played the most innings (i.e. where his manager utilized him the most)
2:30 PM Nov 8th
 
Steven Goldleaf
There's lots of things wrong with my oversimplified idea, rwarn17588. I draw a distinction between "best fielder" and "most valuable fielder"--in my scenario Willie Jones Jr. is the BEST CFer in the league, despite playing only 35 innings in April. But I think the GG is designed to honor the most valuable CFer that season, and by that standard his benighted season doesn't cut it. Jackie Bradley may be BETTER at fielding than anyone else, but if someone played 162/9 and Jackie missed a few hundred innings, is he AND whoever substituted for him in those hundreds of innings still better, on average, than the guy who played all season long? Maybe not. (I consider JBJ's substitute to be JD Martinez in RF rather than Mookie Betts, for our purposes here.)
1:19 PM Nov 8th
 
rwarn17588
I can think of one flaw with the innings-played argument for the Gold Glove. It's not a huge flaw, but one that needs to be considered.

I have little doubt Jackie Bradley Jr. was the best center fielder in the AL. But due to the fact he was battling the Mendoza Line much of the season, I would assume he might've been pinch-hit a few times during his extended slump. (I could be wrong on this assumption, mind you.) This artificially would depress the number of innings he played, even though he was superior defensively.

It also brings to mind Mark Belanger. Every few years or so, Belanger would struggle to hit above .200, so manager Earl Weaver wouldn't hesitate to pinch-hit for him in the late innings if he needed a rally. Belanger remained one of the premiere defensive shortstops in baseball, but even Weaver saw a limit if he was hitting poorly enough.

I agree, however, there needs to be a games-played minimum of some sort on these Gold Gloves. That's why I was a bit surprised Yadier Molina got one this season despite missing about a month because of his gruesome groin injury.
8:41 AM Nov 8th
 
Steven Goldleaf
For those wanting a less playful, more sabermetric approach to the Gold Glove scandals, here's a piece by Sean Thornton that's pretty sharp:

https://www.royalsreview.com/2018/11/7/18069222/revisiting-the-gold-glove-awards

8:18 AM Nov 8th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks, Rich. I knew that someone would appreciate the Hopkins reference. And as it happened when I hit "submit" I went out for a walk in the forest and it was all golden leaves on the path, in the air, on the trees--I would have thought of the Hopkins sonnet even if I hadn't just titled the piece with it. It's one of my favorites.

I'm enjoying the thought that Dave Kingman would actually hurt himself trying to imagine doing some of Rizzuto's or Patek's acrobatics. I see him limping off the field with a hernia and a hamstring pull, just from thinking about doing that.
4:00 PM Nov 7th
 
Rich Dunstan
Loved the Hopkins allusion. How about "...over Goldleaf un-groveling" ? You certainly never grovel, and it occasionally aggrieves some readers--can't speak for Margaret.
(It took me four tries to get the program to give up correcting "un-groveling" to something else.)
3:30 PM Nov 7th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Also, I just said "Baul Plair" out loud and it sounded just like "ball player."

And the main thing that Rizzuto would have over Kingman defensively I didn't even mention: his ability to handle a groundball. Put another way, we're trying to get our minds around Rizzuto at 1B, while the idea of Kingman at shortstop is pure comedy gold. The main difference is that one is simply a great fielder and the other is a terrible fielder--and you're giving me "But Kingman can stretch for throws that Rizzuto can't" while dismissing all the other plays that PR could make easily that DK can't even think about making? Please.
2:01 PM Nov 7th
 
Steven Goldleaf
You'd put Dick Stuart or Dave Kingman at 1B rather than Rizzuto or Patek? No way. What you'd gain in reach, you lose in range, mobility, smarts, and arm.

Sometimes I carefully plan and think through my articles, and rewrite most of them several times, but sometimes, as here, I just wing my first drafts, which I find exciting if a little reckless. (The one I wrote last summer while I was waiting to board a plane, about Clemente's ITP walkoff grandslammer, wasn't bad--20 minutes, start to finish.) I'm actually more interested in the idea i came up with on the fly, about the shortened game between Sluggers and GG winners--I might try gaming that one out with my Stratomatic set. This one was just a little fun, in keeping with my original concept of throwing out a bunch of wacky fanciful ideas, the kind that makes my brother want to throw me out of moving cars.
1:11 PM Nov 7th
 
MarisFan61
Short shortstops.
Even brilliant fielding short shortstops.

They wouldn't have wanted to put Rizzuto there. Or Patek.

BTW, I think OBS's comment is not too bad. :-)

Good points in the article, but many places where I'm "hey wait a minute...."
11:53 AM Nov 7th
 
MWeddell
"Can you think of a shortstop who wouldn't be able to play first base very well, given a little practice?"

Yes, Carlos Guillen. He played parts of 71 MLB games at 1B during the last few years of his career with the Tigers and he was terrible at 1B. DRS and UZR don't view him poorly, so I'm going just off of my observation. Guillen could never get the footwork down correctly, and it always seemed like he was in danger of having a runner step on his ankle at 1B.
9:38 AM Nov 7th
 
OldBackstop
That is like saying the guy with the longest articles is the least insane author.
9:34 AM Nov 7th
 
 
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