Determining the 2013 American League Gold Glove winners based on defensive metrics

Jamie Squire

I'm not exactly sure what criteria is used to determine the Gold Glove winners, but if defensive metrics were used, as unreliable as they can be, I think we would have a better understanding of who was the best defender at each position. Obviously the goal of defense is to prevent runs from scoring. Defensive metrics try to put a numerical value on the amount of runs a player helps prevent, so from their metrics we should be able to see who was the best at accomplishing their goal while out on the field.

Here are the American League winners based on defensive metrics:

23-year-old catcher Salvador Perez led the American League with 11 defensive runs saved and was the best catcher at throwing out base runners (4 rSB).

First baseman Mike Napoli led the league with 10 defensive runs saved and 9.3 range runs saved as well. While defensive metrics for first basemen can be untrustworthy, he also led to league with a 13.3 UZR/150. Not bad for his first season as a permanent first baseman.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia had a league leading 15 defensive runs saved and narrowly beat out Ben Zobrist as the Gold Glove winner.

Choosing a winner for shortstop was a tough one. Pedro Florimon beat out everyone with 12 defensive runs saved, though Elvis Andrus had 11. Yunel Escobar led the league with a 12.2 UZR/150, but was in a virtual tie with Alcides Escobar (12.1). Everyone but Yunel Escobar committed over double digit errors. In the end I gave it to Florimon because he managed to save the most runs overall, even with 18 errors.

Third baseman Manny Machado blew away the competition with 35 defensive runs saved (Evan Longoria had the second best with 12). He also beat Longoria for first place by a wide margin in range runs saved (28.6 vs. 12.1) and UZR/150 (31.8 vs. 16.2).

Right fielder Shane Victorino took home the prize after leading the league with 24 defensive runs saved, 22.6 range runs saved, and compiling a 35.3 UZR/150. He beat out Josh Reddick in every category by a wide margin.

Center field Leonys Martin takes home the prize with Mike Trout having a very down defensive year. He led the league with 14 defensive runs saved, narrowly beating out the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury (13 DRS) and Colby Rasmus (15.2 UZR/150).

Left fielder Alex Gordon took home the Gold Glove after leading the league with 16 defensive runs saved and 9.6 outfield arm runs above average with 17 outfield assists.

The winning pitcher was R.A. Dickey, who led the league with seven defensive runs saved.

While DRS and UZR/150 try to put a concrete value on a player, the numbers are still not 100% reliable so there's plenty of room for debate. Who would you give the Gold Glove awards to?

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