The Gold Glove continues to be a strange award. While the criteria and method for handing out the recognition has changed over time, what hasn’t really changed is the award’s ability to seemingly trip over itself in the name of trying to honor superb defensive play in a given season. In any case, before my soapbox gets too unwieldy beneath me, let’s get to the actual news:
The Braves have three Gold Glove finalists in this field, and the presence of each differs a bit from the others.
At third base, Austin Riley had a monumental defensive season, but not because he actually ended up in a good place. Riley finished with +9 DRS, but -2.3 UZR and a neutral (zero) OAA. The DRS predilection for Riley has been well-documented at this point, and it stands in stark contrast to both UZR and OAA, which have not looked kindly on his defensive play. This in and of itself is fairly interesting: DRS and UZR are similar in many ways, including in that they impute positioning; OAA is based on the fielder’s aptitude in getting to balls and converting them into outs, irrespective of how their teams position them on the field. Therefore, the two similar metrics being split and only one of them agreeing with OAA is just one of the many examples of the quirks of defensive metrics.
In any case, Riley definitely deserves recognition for hugely improving his defense. Check out his OAA percentile ranks at third base:
That’s a pretty hefty jump in one season after being really bad defensively for the past three. Is that jump worthy of a Gold Glove? It’s supposed to be an award for best defense, not most improved defense, right?
In any case, Riley’s +9 DRS did rank him third in the NL in that metric... but there are also six other guys who part-timed at third base and managed +4 DRS or higher, so it’s not that impressive in a vacuum. On the other hand, among the 17 NL third basemen with the most innings at the position this year, Riley finished 12th in UZR, and 13th in OAA. Does that really warrant a Gold Glove finalist nod?
In the end, this is probably just academic whinging, because Ke’Bryan Hayes finished the year with +21 DRS, +3 UZR, and +13 OAA-runs, which probably means he should be a shoo-in for the award, Riley’s finalist placement or not.
The flip side to Riley’s nomination is that of Eddie Rosario. I know, you might be thinking, “Hahaha Eddie Rosario got a Gold Glove nomination, what a joke!” But it’s not a joke. Despite Rosario looking like he was running in quicksand/Quikrete out in left field a fair bit, his defensive metrics are both A) okay and B) pretty good compared to the field of NL left fielders.
To wit: Rosario finished 2023 with +3 DRS, -3 UZR, and +3 OAA (+2 OAA-runs). Once again, there’s some weirdness with why DRS and UZR disagree with one another and yet one agrees with OAA. Among the 15 NL left fielders with the most innings, though, Rosario finished fifth in DRS, 14th in UZR, and second in OAA. None of these 15 players actually finished with all three defensive metrics clocking in ahead of Rosario, at least not for their time in left field. (That said, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Corbin Carroll maybe could’ve managed something here if they didn’t split time in left, and also if the Diamondbacks seemingly positioned one of those guys much better than the other in their small samples.)
The funniest part of the Eddie Rosario nomination here is that his platoon-mate, Kevin Pillar, managed the same +3 OAA/+2 OAA-runs in about a third of Rosario’s innings.
And then we come to Michael Harris II, who was just really good defensively and there’s not too much to say here. Harris probably should’ve won last year (more innings with similar performance when compared to winner Alek Thomas), but that might be tougher this year (or not, the Gold Glove awards make no sense), as his +2 DRS (fifth), +5.3 UZR (second), and +6 OAA/RAA (fifth) all pale beside the insane defensive metrics that Brenton Doyle managed this year (+19, +24.5, +16/14, respectively).
Anyway, stay tuned for the Silver Slugger announcements eventually, which will probably not warrant a similar treatment from me because of the ease of writing some stuff about three players as opposed to the entire team. (Why did they even have a team Silver Slugger this year, what a ridiculous year to start having that award...)