Dial On Defense and Gold


The Major League Baseball awards season kicks off tonight as the Rawlings Gold Gloves will be announced at 8pm, which will be broadcast on ESPN. St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is a finalist for the first time, while teammate Yadier Molina is hoping to win the ninth of his career.

So what are their chances?

“Kolten Wong has a fantastic chance at the Gold Glove,” stated Chris Dial, who serves on the Board of Directors for SABR and helped created the SABR Defensive Index (SDI) which accounts for approximately 25% of the vote in the selection process.

According to the SDI last made public on August 19th, Wong lead all National League players with a 12.3 ranking. Colorado second baseman DJ LaMahieu was close behind at 11.9.

“I think that Kolten Wong has the best chance,” Dial continued. “There’s no doubt within the metric, Kolten and DJ go back and forth. I know that Defensive Runs Saved he’s the leader. I think he’s a flat-footed tie in RED…it will literally come down to how the votes just lay because they are literally a dead tie.”

Over the last six seasons, the player who has led the SDI ranking at his position has won the Gold Glove 92% of the time.

That doesn’t bode well this season for Yadier Molina, who at 0.6 was sixth in the SDI for NL catchers. San Francisco’s Buster Posey (5.1) lead the position and fellow Gold Glove finalist Manny Pina was third at 3.1.

“Yadi has an outside chance,” Dial said. “He absolutely is a great fielder and even with the influence–because the difference in catchers is very small this year. That’s one of the differences in the Gold Gloves. When the amount of runs prevented is narrow, you know 10-9-8, you can look at Yadier Molina at 8 and go ‘that’s close enough’ and there probably not measuring how well he’s handling the pitching staff. Boom. Yadier Molina. It’s when Yadier Molina in past years, he’d be at 13 and the next guys like 6-5-4 so it’s an easy decision.”

Looking over the SDI, it is notable that St. Louis centerfielder Harrison Bader’s name did not make the list.

“For Bader, he didn’t make a thousand innings,” Dial explained. “This is kind of a cumulative stat. If he had played in centerfield for 1400 innings or 1300 innings, which is a standardization thing, he would have saved closer to 18 or 20 runs which is where Lorenzo Cain ended up. Bader’s only gap is playing time. Next year, he’s absolutely poised.”

Bader finished 2018 with 19 runs saved–but 11 of those came in center. Worth noting, Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton only had 4 runs saved, but he has also has the benefit of already establishing a defensive reputation over his career.

Also of interest, Dial recently made a presentation to SABR which examined how past Gold Glove winners stacked up against the SDI. Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith did extremely well as did former Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen. The presentation also showed that Albert Pujols deserved more Gold Gloves during his time in St. Louis. The likes of Omar Vizquel, Derek Jeter, and many others did not matchup nearly as favorably.

photo credit: Benny Sieu, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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