Written by: Sam Minier
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American League Gold Glove
The American League did not have many controversial races for Gold Glove at any position. Most finalists were seemingly selected using DRS, with the top 3 at many positions in that metric earning finalist bids. For example, at SS Francisco Lindor was 8th in DRS, but he led his position with a 5.8 UZR score compared to the next closest of 2.5. That was not good enough to even be named a finalist for the award, because of his weaker DRS stat.
Of the races, the least obvious was at catcher, where three players stood out from the crowd. Roberto Perez, Yasmani Grandal, and James McCann were the top three catchers in DRS among catchers with 190 innings behind the dish. Perez had 6 and the other two both had 5. Grandal had the best arm of the three and led them in DEF, so he deserves the award.
The race at first base was also pretty close between Evan White and Matt Olson. White had 7 DRS compared to Olson’s 5, but Olson had a slightly better UZR number. It’s a coin flip between these two, but I will give the advantage to Evan White because he led in DRS and UZR/150.
UZR was also the deciding factor for me at third base. Texas Ranger Kiner-Falefa led third baseman with 8 DRS compared to Gio Urshela’s 6. However, Gio had a big advantage in UZR/150 finishing at 13.2 compared to Kiner-Falefa’s 4.8 Give the award to Urshela.
Notable snubs include Christian Vasquez at catcher, Lindor at shortstop, and Kiermaier at center field. Lindor and Vasquez were both seemingly excluded from finalist lists because they lacked defensive runs saved. However, both led their positions in DEF and led at least one other defensive category. It seems a heavy emphasis was given to DRS this year.
Kiermaier was a shocking snub at center field. He was aiming for his 4th Gold Glove in the 7th season of his career. Kiermaier led his position in UZR/150 and he trailed only Byron Buxton in DRS with 10 on the year. There was no reason for him to be excluded from the finalists because he probably deserves the award. While unfortunate, Kiermaier will be back and will win another gold glove before his career is over.
Texas Ranger right fielder Joey Gallo is my pick for the Platinum Glove Award. He led the American League in DRS with 12 and he was third in UZR/150, behind two players who will not even win Gold Gloves in Clint Frazier and Kevin Kiermaier. Gallo played just 16 games in right field in the 5 seasons before 2020. His production after the transition to right will earn Gallo his first career Gold Glove and a Platinum Glove too.
Pitcher: Griffin Canning 0x winner
Catcher: Yasmani Grandal 0x winner
First Baseman: Evan White 0x winner
Second Baseman: Cesar Hernandez 0x winner
Third Baseman: Gio Urshela 0x winner
Shortstop: JP Crawford 0x winner
Left Field: Kyle Tucker 0x winner
Center Field: Byron Buxton 1x winner
Right Field: Joey Gallo 0x winner
**Indicates Platinum Glove winner
National League Gold Glove
The NL has some more superstars competing for Gold Gloves this season. Rizzo, Arenado, Swanson, and Betts are all deserving of the award in this league. Of all the AL winners Buxton and Grandal combine for 3 all-star game appearances in their careers. Nolan Arenado himself is more decorated than the AL group, with 5 all-star appearances, 7 gold glove awards, and 4 silver sluggers in his career.
Fried, Swanson, O’Neil, Stallings, and Grisham are all going to be collecting their first Gold Glove award. Wong won it for the first time last season. The other guys here are all regular winners. Betts will win his 5th consecutive Gold Glove award, Arenado will win his 8th consecutive, and Rizzo will win his 4th in 5 seasons.
All the players on the list helped get their teams to the postseason, and many of them made exciting plays there. Most notably, Mookie Betts performed like the superstar he is, robbing Freddie Freeman of a home run in game 7 of the NLCS, and turning a big double play with a shoestring catch to end a Braves rally in game 5 of the NLCS. His defense helped propel the Dodgers to their first world series title since 1988. Betts was by far the best right fielder with 10 defensive runs saved more than any other NL right fielder.
Arenado was the best fielder in all of baseball. His 15 defensive runs saved led baseball and so did his 9.3 DEF. Arenado won the Platinum Glove each of the past 3 seasons and he is looking at a four-peat right now. Tyler O’Neil, Mookie Betts, and Trent Grisham were all a tier below Arenado defensively. All four are deserving of Gold Gloves at their respective positions. But Arenado will win another Platinum Glove award.
Pitcher: Max Fried 0x winner
Catcher: PIT – Jacob Stallings 0x winner
First Baseman: CHC – Anthony Rizzo 3x winner
Second Baseman: STL – Kolten Wong 1x winner
Third Baseman: COL – Nolan Arenado 7x winner
Shortstop: ATL – Dansby Swanson 0x winner
Left Field: STL – Tyler O’Neil 0x winner
Center Field: SDP – Trent Grisham 0x winner
Right Field: LAD – Mookie Betts 4x winner
**Indicates Platinum Glove winner
American League Silver Sluggers
The nine sluggers listed below have combined for 17 Silver Slugger awards before 2020, with 7 of those belonging to Mike Trout and 3 to Nelson Cruz. Salvador Perez, Jose Abreu, and Jose Ramirez each have won the award twice before and DJ LeMahieu won it for the first time last season. The other three players would be winning the award for the first time in their careers this season.
Most of these guys were clear cut winners with the lone exception being at shortstop. Boston Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts and the White Sox Tim Anderson both had strong seasons. But Anderson had the advantage in hits, runs, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. It will be an exciting first award for the shortstop who won the batting title in 2019 but lost the Silver Slugger to Bogaerts.
Teoscar Hernandez has burst onto the scene here in 2020 by blasting 16 home runs, scoring 33 runs, and driving in 34. Among right fielders who played 40 games, Hernandez led with a 146 wRC+ and he also had the highest average exit velocity at 93.3 mph. It was the best season of his young career and Hernandez was on pace to set a bunch of personal bests.
White Sox fans have a lot to be excited about with three players that should win Silver Slugger awards this season. Anderson, Abreu, and Jimenez are all consistent hitters at the heart of that talented lineup that also includes youngster Luis Robert. Maybe next season they will have more than three Silver Slugger winners.
There isn’t much to say in the AL. Most of these players were by far the best hitter at their position. Nelson Cruz continues to be the most reliable DH in baseball, hitting 16 bombs with a slash line of .303/.397/.595. LeMahieu, Ramirez, and Abreu were all MVP finalists in my prediction article and all cruise to Silver Slugger victories. Mike Trout will win for the 8th time in the 9 full seasons he has played in his career, continuing to be the best player in baseball. Here are all of my picks for AL silver slugger.
Catcher: KCR – Salvador Perez 2x winner
First Baseman: CHW – Jose Abreu 2x winner
Second Baseman: NYY – DJ LeMahieu 1x winner
Third Baseman: CLE – Jose Ramirez 2x winner
Shortstop: CHW – Tim Anderson 0x winner
Left Field: CHW – Eloy Jimenez 0x winner
Center Field: LAA – Mike Trout 7x winner
Right Field: TOR – Teoscar Hernandez 0x winner
Designated Hitter: MIN – Nelson Cruz 3x winner
National League Silver Sluggers
Lots of familiar faces on the list below of my picks for the NL Silver Slugger awards, but not as many as you would think looking at the names. Machado, Soto, and Turner have not won the award before along with Will Smith. Freddie Freeman, Acuna, and Ozuna each have just one win. Many of these young guys are on their way to winning this award a bunch of times.
A few teams crowded the list with 3 Braves, 2 Dodgers, and 2 Nationals making the list. The Braves lineup carried a makeshift rotation to an NL East title and three of those sluggers deserve this award. Freeman deserves MVP and he was a Silver Slugger as well. Ozuna won two legs of the triple crown and finished 3rd in batting average to earn his selection.
Acuna gets my pick despite only playing in 46 games. He led qualified center fielders in runs, wOBA, OBP, and SLUG. The Braves superstar finished 4th or better in stolen bases, home runs, RBI’s, and wRC+. It was pretty close between him and Giants outfielder Mike Yastremski, but ultimately Acuna had him beat in HR’s, runs, OBP, slugging percentage, and stolen bases, so the Braves outfielder will win his 2nd Silver Slugger.
Robinson Cano won this award four times in a row from 2010-2013 but has come up short every year since. He will snap a six-year drought after slashing .316/.352/.544 and hitting 10 home runs in the abbreviated season. Cano led NL second baseman in wOBA, wRC+, and slugging percentage. Congrats to him for having such a productive 16th season.
Machado is the clear favorite to win the Silver Slugger award at third base. It will be his first time winning the award which is surprising considering he has hit at least .280 with 30 home runs and 85 RBI’s four times. Machado launched 16 homers, drove in 47 runs, and scored 44. He stole 6 bases and posted a .950 OPS. I suspect he just might win some more of these before he is done playing.
Soto also will win his first silver slugger after mashing in 2020. His slash line was .351/.490/.695 and Soto had 27 extra base hits in just 47 games. He also led the league with 12 intention walks, despite missing the start of the season for COVID protocol, showing just how afraid pitchers were of him. Had Soto been healthy at the start of the season he probably would have put up big enough numbers to win the MVP. Below are all of my picks for NL Silver Slugger.
Catcher: LAD – Will Smith 0x
First Baseman: ATL – Freddie Freeman 1x winner
Second Baseman: NYM – Robinson Cano 5x winner
Third Baseman: SDP – Manny Machado 0x winner
Shortstop: WSH – Trea Turner 0x winner
Left Field: WSH – Juan Soto 0x winner
Center Field: ATL – Ronald Acuna 1x winner
Right Field: LAD – Mookie Betts 3x
Designated Hitter: ATL – Marcell Ozuna 1x
Defensive Runs Saved (DRS): is a defensive statistic that rates individual players as above or below average on defense. Players are measured in “runs” above or below average, and Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) data is used as an input.
Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF): measures defensive value relative to the league average taking into account value relative to positional average (fielding runs) and positional value relative to other positions (positional adjustment).
UZR: an advanced defensive metric that uses play-by-play data recorded by Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) to estimate each fielder’s defensive contribution in theoretical runs above or below an average fielder at his position in that player’s league and year.
UZR/150: The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games
wOBA: combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value.
wRC+: attempts to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs and then adjust for park effects.