Earlier in the week, The Fielding Bible Awards were announced. Voted on by a panel of experts, they tend to be a better representation of the best glovemen in the game than the Gold Gloves. Derek Jeter, for example, has never won a Bible Award.
Last night MLB took the somewhat surprising step of announcing the shortlist for this year’s Gold Glove awards. I assume the three players named at each position are the top three vote getters but I would also like to think that someone just put some names on the shortlist who were nowhere near contention just to mess with people.
As the Gold Glove winners are due to be announced tonight, I thought I’d get there first and announce the inaugural winners of the Grabbie Awards. Making no apologies for the daft name, these are the defenders that I think have been the best at each position in 2011. I’ve looked at some metrics but ultimately I’ve tried to let my eyes be the judge as much as possible. On with the AL winners, NL recipients to follow after:
Catcher: Matt Wieters
The biggest knock on his defense while he was an uber-prospect was that he might outgrow the catcher position. While this might still be true (see Mauer, Joe) he’s pretty darn good back there for now.
First Base: Casey Kotchman
I’m from the school of thought that thinks Mark Teixeira is decent but overrated by some. Adrian Gonzalez pushed Kotchman close but the Rays man deserves this and has earned the right to be overpaid next year with an very solid year.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
Robinson Cano seems much improved, as does Ian Kinsler, but the biggest mouth in Beantown is still clearly a stronger defender than either.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre
I must declare a slight bias here. I love the way Adrian Beltre plays. There’s few sights I enjoy more during a game than watching him make flat footed throws across the diamond or charging in to make a bare handed play. This could be his award for as long as keeps playing and I don’t mind admitting it.
Shortstop: JJ Hardy
Hardy is very good, but this award is almost by default. There’s surprisingly few standout defenders at short in the AL at the moment.
Left Field: Brett Gardener
As easy a call as there is this year.
Centre Field: Peter Bourjos
Possibly an even easier pick than Gardener. He’s not just ridiculously fast, he constantly looks like he’s running ridiculously fast. Every play he makes is exciting to watch just to see him cover the ground in centre.
Right Field: Torii Hunter
Here is something that I definitely agreed with Gold Glove and Fielding Bible voters on: Ichiro very clearly lost a step this year. It’s only to be expected as he moves into his late 30s but it’s always worth remembering how spectacular he was in his prime. Without him, right field is easily the AL’s shallowest talent pool for defenders.