One week ago, when Rawlings and Major League Baseball announced the 2022 Gold Glove Award winners, they also announced that the fan vote for the annual Platinum Glove Award had begun. Earlier today, we took a dive into why Yankees catcher Jose Trevino deserves to become the first Yankee and just the second catcher to receive the honor. He is not the only member of the 2022 Yankees to be eligible this year, however, as DJ LeMahieu won the first ever Gold Glove Award in the utility category. And, while the argument isn’t quite as clear cut as Trevino’s, there’s an argument to be made that LeMahieu deserves the 2022 Platinum Glove.
By definition, the Platinum Glove honors “the best defensive baseball player” in each league, combining a fan vote with the SABR Defensive Index to determine which Gold Glove winner deserves that year’s honor. While defensive metrics have a part to play, certainly, the inclusion of a fan vote leaves the award open for interpretation. Much like fans, bloggers, and journalists debate what the MVP award means by the word “valuable,” we can similarly debate what does being “the best defensive baseball player” entail? Should we simply sort by Defensive Runs Saved, Outs Above Average, and UZR/150, determine which player in each league consistently ranks highest among all the categories, and name “the best?” Or should we factor in value that does not go into the stat book?
Defensively, DJ LeMahieu did not light up the stat book in the same way that, say, Jose Trevino did. He was an elite third baseman in his 385.2 innings there, with his 8 DRS tied for 2nd with teammate Josh Donaldson, his 11.9 UZR/150 leading AL third basemen with at least 300 innings there, and his 4 OAA tied for fourth, and it was on the back of his performance at the hot corner that he won the Gold Glove in the first place. His performance at first base was similarly highly-ranked, as his 2 DRS, 2 OAA, and 3.3 UZR/150 were ranked fourth, fourth, and third, respectively, among players with at least 250 innings, but first base defense is on the whole not all that valued by the metrics. And at second base, his original position, he was merely average, accruing just -1 DRS, 2 OAA, and 1.1 UZR/150 in 312.2 innings.
At the same time, however, you can make the case that there was no glove in baseball more valuable to its team than LeMahieu’s was to the Yankees. When the Yankees were clicking at full speed in the early part of the season, LeMahieu was able to fill his intended role as starting utility infielder, bouncing primarily between second base and third base with regular appearances at first, giving every member of the infield regular rest days that kept everybody fresh. When injuries hit, first to Josh Donaldson, then to Anthony Rizzo, he was able to man the position without a hitch, allowing the Yankees to weather Donaldson’s injury with almost no interruption and Rizzo’s with as minimal interruption as you could possibly have when the season’s in a tailspin (remember, Rizzo was injured in August and September).
At the end of the day, LeMahieu may not have made the flashiest plays with the leather, but nobody else made as big an impact defensively as he did. And because of this, he deserves to exchange his Gold Glove for a Platinum one.