Jeter Wins Gold Glove; Utley Does Not; Life Unfair

The National League Gold Glove awards were dished out just a few minutes ago. The Phillies’ own Shane Victorino won his third consecutive Gold Glove, perhaps undeservedly.

Once again, Chase Utley was not rewarded for his efforts. The anti-Gold Glove arguments have been made ad nauseam by now, so I’m not going to go on a tirade, but I will link to this article on Utley’s defense I wrote earlier this year.

Simply put, Utley has been the best defender since 2005 in aggregate, and in each individual season except 2007 (even then, arguably). Were the awards issued by myself, Utley would have been issued his fifth Gold Glove. But alas, it was not meant to be.

Your winners:

Over in the American League, Derek Jeter laughably won yet another Gold Glove at shortstop. Jeter gets one and Chase does not. Life is unfair, and the Gold Glove is meaningless. It’s not even worth arguing about anymore.

Carlos Ruiz Receives High Defensive Grades

Matt Klaassen posted his catcher defense rankings at Beyond the Box Score. Carlos Ruiz ranked very highly, no surprise there. He finished third overall behind Yadier Molina and Ivan Rodriguez.

Ruiz ranked first in PBWP runs, or the amount of runs saved preventing passed balls and wild pitches. He ranked 22nd out of 120 catchers in CS runs, or runs prevented throwing out runners on the bases.

Back-up catcher Brian Schneider ranked 24th overall in PBWP runs and 73rd in CS runs, good for 27th overall.

Teams with two or more catchers rated as highly as Ruiz and Schneider were the Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and New York Mets.

For the rest of the rankings, check out Matt’s work at BTBS.

Downfall of a Goliath

Over at the Baseball Analytics blog, I looked at the surprising decline of Ryan Howard against right-handed pitchers utilizing more heat maps. Surely, this does not bode well for that five-year, $125 million contract extension he signed earlier this year.

Baseball is a great game because it is impossible to achieve optimal strategy. As your opponent makes adjustments to you, you make adjustments to those adjustments, and so on. Lefties threw Howard a bunch of low-and-away sliders, so the first baseman started to look for those pitches more. He was crushing fastballs from right-handers, so those pitchers threw him more soft stuff.

In 2008, one in every two pitches thrown by a right-hander was something hard — particularly four-seam fastballs. That figure dropped to 47 percent in ’09 and 42 percent in ’10.

The following heat map displays the fly ball distance on soft stuff thrown by right-handed pitchers in each of the past three seasons. Two things are apparent on the graph: right-handers have become much more willing to challenge Howard inside, and that Howard became noticeably weaker against pitches on the outer portion of the plate — perhaps the latter as a function of the former.