Hartnett: Hybrid System Needed To Determine MLB’s Best Fielders

Combining Fielding Bible & Gold Glove Award Would Be Ideal

‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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The Rawlings Gold Glove Award reminds me of a rusting classic car.   Some believe that it belongs in the junkyard while others continue to reminisce about its vintage prestige.

Despite the growing debate, most casual baseball fans still look to the Gold Glove Award instead of the Fielding Bible Award.  I’m certain that a few readers will be scratching their heads as the Fielding Bible Award hasn’t been given the proper amount of mainstream media attention it deserves.

For those unaware, the Fielding Bible Award has been around since 2006 after John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions assembled a team of prominent sabermetric journalists, a collection of video scouts and a fan poll to provide an alternative to the Gold Glove.  There is a 100-point system to determine who comes away as the best fielder at each position in baseball.

While I believe that the Fielding Bible Award is superior, it doesn’t have the ‘fun factor’ of the Gold Glove.  My main gripe with the Fielding Bible Award is that it doesn’t separate the leagues and only awards a single player per position regardless of the league.  American League defenders have to contend with the designated hitter which means that they’ll face stronger hitting lineups and prolonged innings in the field.

My opinion of the Gold Glove Award is that it’s outdated and shouldn’t be judged purely by managers and coaches.  While I value the input of those hired to guide major league clubs on the field, I also believe their voting is biased due to a reliance upon non-sabermetric statistics, player popularity and hearsay around the game.

When viewing the outcome of the 2011 editions of these awards, I noticed just how far apart the coaches and sabermetricians are when defining top fielders.  Fielding Bible’s panel selected Brett Gardner, Austin Jackson and Justin Upton as the top three fielding outfielders at their positions in all of baseball.  Gold Glove voters bypassed the trio as they chose six entirely different outfield winners: Alex Gordon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Nick Markakis, Gerardo Parra, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

Gardner might be the player who garners the most debate among fans because of his AL-leading 22 runs saved and numerous highlight catches throughout the season.  Fielding Bible named Gardner as the MLB’s best fielding left-fielder for the second year in a row yet his defensive prowess has yet to earn him a Gold Glove.

My proposition is to combine the best aspects of both awards and add in a few other ideas to form a more conclusive fielding award.  I’d call it the Rawlings-SABR Gold Glove Award.  The very thought of such an idea might spark a ‘Christians vs. Science’ war between the sides but this is something that baseball needs to happen so there can be an irrefutable way to determine the MLB’s best fielders.

Ready?  Here’s my plan…

–         Keep the Gold Gloves.  They’re beautiful looking trophies.

–         Only allow everyday players (non-pitchers) who have played 100 games or more at a single position to be included on the ballot.

–         Separate the American and National League players.

–         Allow 4 groups to vote (1. Fielding Bible Panel & Additional Sabermetric Scholars, 2. Current MLB Managers & Coaches, 3. Non-Sabermetric BBWAA Writers, 4. BIS Video Scouts)

–         Each individual member within a party casts a single vote for a player at each position in both leagues.  The four parties will rank their best fielders by position 1 through 5 after the voting is tabulated.

–         Assign the highest vote-getter from each group the score of 5, descending to a score of 1 for fifth place.  Players tied at any rank will both receive the full points of that particular rank.

–         Collect the scores of each group and add them together.  The highest possible vote total is 20.

–         Publish the entire voting results to the fans.  In the event of a tie, both players will be given the award.

This is the fairest example I could come up with to decide who are the best fielders in baseball.

If you can come up with better plan, I’m all ears.

What do you think of Sean’s plan?  Does Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

  • Duke

    that’s all fine and good, but do you really need sabermetricians to tell us that in 1999 Rafael Palmiero was a gold glove winner playing 1st base for just 30 games while being a DH for 128 games.

    Tino Martinez played 158 games covering 1st base and loses a gold glove to a guy who played 1st base just 30 games.

    You don’t need sabermetricians to tell us who was the better 1st baseman.

    • hartylfc

      Duke, sabermetricans are clearly needed as the managers and coaches don’t put in enough research when handling the Gold Glove voting. Your example with Palmiero proves this as does Jeter’s popularity vote Gold Gloves in 2008 & 2009. – Sean Hartnett

  • LongTimeFan

    There’s definitely a problem with the Gold Glove becoming increasingly out of touch.

    I think a more comprehensive award system like the one Sean proposes, makes a lot of sense.

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