Identifying Mark Buehrle's AL Successor

CHICAGO, IL: Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox falls as he tries to field a bunt single hit by Michael Brantley #23 of the Cleveland Indians during the seventh inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Mark Buehrle has won the last three American League Gold Gloves for pitchers. Mark Buehrle isn't in the American League anymore. Oh no! Who is going to take his place?

I probably don't need to tell you that the Gold Glove awards are serious business. They are awards taken very seriously and professionally by the voters. They are awards taken very seriously and respectfully by the fans. And, I mean, just look at these things:

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The size, the craftsmanship, the materials! You don't give out an award that looks like that unless it's a serious award. A serious award that's given to serious players like Derek Jeter.

So, we know that the Gold Gloves are important. You might be thinking that it's way too early for us to be talking about the Gold Glove awards, since the winners aren't announced until after the season. The season just began. Like, it literally just began. There was no season before you clicked on this article. The 2012 regular season has only just sprouted.

But as distant as the announcements might be, we can anticipate that there will be an issue. And that anticipation compels us to talk about this now. See, here's the thing: there's a Gold Glove for every position in each league, now including all three outfield positions individually. Among those positions, naturally, is pitcher. Mark Buehrle won the American League Gold Glove award for pitchers in 2009. He won the award again in 2010, and again in 2011. Mark Buehrle no longer pitches in the American League, having taken his talents to South Beach signed a big contract with the Miami Dictator Bedfellows. So there's a void. Or you might call it an opportunity.

Pitcher Gold Gloves tend to repeat. Greg Maddux won 18 of them. Jim Kaat won 16 of them. Bob Gibson won nine of them, Bobby Shantz won eight of them, and Mark Langston and Mike Mussina won seven of them. One can imagine that Mark Buehrle was probably poised to win again in 2012, had he not switched leagues. But since he did switch leagues, the American League is going to need to find a new guy who can win this year, and then probably again next year and the year after that.

Who's it going to be? Who in the American League can come off the mound and make defensive plays to rival this one?


The first thing we have to note is that - actually, no, the first thing we have to note is that Mark Buehrle isn't in the American League anymore, which we already noted. The second thing we have to note is that no former Gold Glove winner currently pitches in the AL. Johan Santana won a Gold Glove, but he's with the Mets. Adam Wainwright, Bronson Arroyo, and Clayton Kershaw won Gold Gloves, but they're with the Cardinals, Reds, and Dodgers. They also very much undermine my point about continuity but shut up and keep reading.

So whoever wins this thing is going to be brand new, barring a Bret Saberhagen career revival. Who's most deserving? This is kind of tricky, given the limited number of fielding chances a pitcher has in a season. If we turn to our old friend Defensive Runs Saved, then, since 2009, the AL leader among pitchers is Ricky Romero, at +13 runs. But then five of those runs are from preventing stolen bases, which usually aren't considered. The AL leader, excluding prevented stolen bases, is Fausto Carmona. All right, no, that's no good. That's not even a person anymore.

Forget going back to 2009. What if we just look at 2011? Then we find that our favorite is Hiroki Kuroda, who rather quietly pitches for the Yankees now. Just behind him, we get Justin Verlander, Dan Haren, and Doug Fister. Fister's like a big awkward cat off the mound, so he could get attention provided he doesn't miss too much time with his current injury.

So from the statistical perspective, we can create a small pool of top contenders. And then if - actually, wait, hold on one second.


Early in the season. Graceful. Behind-the-back. Pitcher makes it look like it's no big deal. Congratulations, Nick Blackburn, on winning the 2012 American League Gold Glove award for pitchers, and for probably winning in 2013 and 2014 too. You may begin making space on your mantel.

***


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