The Mets are having a tough end to the week, even with winning a double header over the Yankees. GM Brodie Van Wagenen was heard on a hot microphone complaining about how operations was going, and the Wilpons were not happy about it, leading to whispers of Van Wagenen possibly being fired. Then news of A-Rod stepping back from the table, allowing Steve Cohen to make a move. Cohen says he wants to spend spend spend if he is the owner. That part is good news for the Mets. Unfortunately, all of this is just gossip, and whatever will be, will be. Let’s focus on the field.
There will be awards if we make it to the end of the season, and possibly if we do not (like 1994). There will be a batting champion. Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon was batting .500 at the end of the day on August 11, leading to some “analysts” to talk about .400. Two weeks later, Blackmon still leads both leagues, at .374. He hit .218 the last 14 games. Regression to the mean is real. Mets second baseman Robinson Cano is hitting .378 but is 16 plate appearances short of qualifying. Maybe by the end of next week.
The Mets do not have any players in the basic count stats races, as Pete Alonso has struggled. Coupled with the COVID-related loss of games and innings, no player is likely to reach the plate appearances to keep up with the current leaders.
One concern is the Gold Glove Awards. With the regular season awards like Cy Young or Most Valuable Player, the “best player” is usually identified. Or perhaps the top tier that fans can enjoy a discussion about – is it Tatis, or is it Mookie Betts? Is the CY winner going to be deGrom for the third straight season or will Atlanta’s Max Fried stay unbeaten?
Gold Gloves require volume. A baseball season usually means 162 games, and a “Cal Ripken” season that means 1400 innings. Even with that many innings, defensive players get about 500 chances up the middle, and down from there. As strikeouts and home runs have gone up, defensive chances keep going down. Gold Glove ballots also get sent out at the start of September…typically. That means a players performance, summarized on the ballots, is just through about 142 games, and to qualify, a fielder needs 710 innings. That works out to be “the starter” because the player played five innings per game, just like a pitcher getting a win.
All the statheads will wince at the idea that 700 innings is enough to determine the best fielder, but usually that’s not where everyone is. Players have usually played most of the games, with 1000-1200 innings. And since defensive runs prevented is mostly a count stat, more innings allows to accumulate more runs.
In 1999, Rafael Palmeiro won the Gold Glove for first base. Everyone knows he did not play first base. He was the DH. Lee Stevens, in case anyone was wondering. But Palmeiro did play 29 games at first, and that worked out to be 246 innings.
Why is that relevant?
Right now, the St. Louis Cardinals have played 23 games. Even if they play 60, which is unlikely, many of those games will be seven innings long. The Cardinals have several particularly good fielders – Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, Kolten Wong, but they will struggle to see enough chances to differentiate themselves from other fielders. There will be players eligible for the Gold Glove that have played 200 innings.
It is undetermined how Rawlings will go forward. Let’s take a look at how these could shake out. SABR has the SDI, and research shows it strongly influences the voting. Here are some leaders at the halfway point. At first base in the American League, Matt Olson and Yuli Gurriel, known good fielders, are at the top, and in the National League Anthony Rizzo. At second, Cleveland’s Cesar Hernandez leads the way. Last year’s winner, White Sox Yolmer Sanchez is out of baseball, released by the Giants last Friday, after not playing this season. It is not unusual for second base to have some fluctuation. In the NL, with Wong missing time, Kike Hernandez has a big lead, but Wong is moving up. Anthony Rendon moved to the AL, and leads third basemen, as Matt Chapman had one bad week, and we do not know if he has enough time to make up for it. Yes, Nolan Arenado has a good lead in the National League.
At short stop, Seattle’s J.P. Crawford has a solid lead, as Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons are languishing around average. Trevor Story leads the NL shortstops, but last year’s winner Nick Ahmed is just barely behind.
Left field is almost always a “sort of” award, as the chances are fewer, and the players are rotated more. Nonetheless, it is a surprise to see a Boston Red Sox player at the top in Alex Verdugo. The Green Monster is always tough to account for, and really keeps a good Red Sox fielder from shining, but in 200 innings, anything can happen! In the NL, the Diamondbacks David Peralta, 2019 winner, has a lead.
American League center field is loaded with terrific fielders, and one of the best, is Byron Buxton. Buxton has battled injuries the last couple of seasons, but this year is well atop the field, even as Kevin Kiermaier and Luis Robert and Ramon Laureano and George Springer…you get the idea. It is fun to watch that whole collection. In the NL, 2019 winner, Cody Bellinger is trailing Trent Grisham.
Last year there was some controversy when Aaron Judge did not quite qualify and had prevented the most runs. This year, he is going to struggle to qualify, and he is in the top three, but Max Kepler of Minnesota and Anthony Santander of Baltimore have a lead and played more innings. The NL now has Mookie Betts, who is one of the best fielders of the decade, and he has the most runs saved above average of any player at any position.
At catcher, Christian Vazquez of the Red Sox leads the AL and the Brewers Omar Narvaez leads the NL. Yadier Molina, who has won nine is not too far back, and with seven inning games, could catch up and tie Johnny Bench for the second-most catcher Gold Gloves.
You may notice no Mets were mentioned. In this analysis, the only Mets that appeared in the SDI potential voting were Luis Guillorme at second, Andres Gimenez at short and Billy Hamilton in center. Looking at team performances, the Dodgers lead the NL at +10 runs, and the Mets are next to last at -9 runs. The Nationals are the worst at -10 runs. That is two wins the Dodgers have over the Mets just on catching the ball. The Braves are the only NL East team above average at +2.