Gold Glove Fact #1: Derek Jeter has five Gold Gloves, but he missed a chance at six when Michael Young won in 2008.
Gold Glove Fact #2: Five years ago, Michael Young won a Gold Glove at shortstop.
Gold Glove Fact #3: The winner of the Gold Glove at shortstop in 2008 in the American League was Michael Young.
I could go on with these facts all day. I found them at this amazing website. I learned there that Michael Young won the Gold Glove in 2008. At shortstop.
But the Gold Gloves nominations were announced on Friday, and there's a problem. There aren't any funny players nominated. No Michael Youngs, no Rafael Palmeiros. No nothin'. Let's see … I didn't think Chris Davis was that good, but I probably didn't watch him enough. Andy Dirks didn't play a full season in left. That's it. Those are maybe the worst finalists. And they're not that bad. They might be good selections, actually. That's not funny. Now what?
There are still snubs, though. Josh Donaldson was a superlative defender, but there just wasn't room for him in the mix at third base. The numbers (and splitting time between left and center) hurt Mike Trout, who looked last year like he would win 20 consecutive Gold Gloves. Pedro Florimon played a mean shortstop, which is good because he sure can't hit.
So it's not like the addition of statistics to the selection process is a panacea. There are still going to be deserving players left out. There are still going to be winners who are less deserving than runners-up.
But I think we've seen the last of Michael Young, Gold Glove winner*. There isn't going to be another Palmeiro, and it might be the last we'll see of the Jeter-type hilarity. And this just might be because Rawlings is using statistics to select Gold Glove winners. How much of a part do the stats play now?
Rawlings Sporting Goods, which awards the Gold Gloves, collaborated with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) to create an independent committee that devised the SABR Defensive Index (SDI), the new analytic that will account for 30 total "votes" — approximately 25 to 30 percent, depending on the number of ballots received from managers and coaches.
A de facto block of anti-Jeter voters, counting for 30 percent of the vote? Those cold, unfeeling numbers, immune to the powers of looking into his deep, hazel eyes, would have been enough to cost him the award in those years, most likely. And they probably would have kept him out of the top three.
Palmeiro certainly wouldn't have had a chance with the new system. Young probably wouldn't have. We've lost our punching bags, everyone. This is a travesty. This is so … fair and sensible. What a mess.
There's still some hope for the future, though. It's easy to forget just how weird defensive stats can be. They're like batting average in a way -- just because Nomar Garciaparra hit .372 in 2000 didn't mean that his true talent level was that of a .372 hitter. And he did that in almost 600 at-bats, or about twice as many plays as the typical shortstop gets in the field, so batting average is probably more reliable on a season-to-season basis.
The SABR/Rawlings method is doing the right thing by using multiple sources, as there's less of a chance of a glitch with one stat (like Carlos Lee's amazing UZR/150 in his last year in left field), so it's still going to be exceptionally hard to come up with a hilarious finalist. But one of these years, there's going to be a player with a sterling defensive reputation but awful numbers (a J.T. Snow or Derek Jeter type) and he'll have the defensive equivalent of a bunch of broken-bat hits and a .300 average.
It's just going to be really rare.
I miss laughing at the Gold Gloves already. What, we're going to have calm, measured discussions now? On the Internet?
Thanks, statistics. Way to suck the fun out of the game. Get your nose out of the recorded data and half-watch a game some time, like the managers and coaches used to.
*2008 American League, shortstop