Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pujols Deserves More Gold Glove Credit

For eight straight seasons - from 2004 through 2011 - the National League's best defensive first baseman was a player better known for his offensive prowess:  Albert Pujols.  Certainly, Pujols was one of the greatest sluggers of all-time during his 11-year reign in St Louis, but he also happened to be the best defensive first baseman the Cardinals have employed since Keith Hernandez was traded away over 30 years ago.

As we have observed time and time again, the best defensive player at any given position is often passed over when the Gold Glove Awards are doled out.  Such was the case with Pujols, who received his first Gold Glove in 2006, then another in 2010.  That leaves six seasons unaccounted for - when players of lesser defensive prowess managed to claim the award.  Understandably, it's difficult for a player to be chosen in their first season at a position; still, the defensive metrics are clearly indicating it was Phat Albert - not Todd Helton, nor Derek Lee, nor Adrian Gonzalez nor Joey Votto - who should have bagged the Gold Glove Award each and every season between '04 and '11. 

Pujols' Range Factor and Defensive Runs Saved - Compared to League Avg & GG Winner is listed below for all eight seasons in question:

Yr   Pujols' Range Factor vs NL Avg (Run Differential)       GG Winner & RF & Run Dif

'04         10.57       vs 9.51    (+15)                                             Todd Helton         10.22      (+10)
'05         11.22       vs 9.65    (+9)                                               Derek Lee              9.38        (-4)
'06         10.55       vs 9.43    (+14)  GG
'07         9.84         vs 9.21    (+25)                                              Derek Lee              8.84         (-1)
'08         10.61       vs 9.34    (+18)                                              Adrian Gonzalez    9.12        (+1)
'09         10.84       vs 9.29    (+12)                                              Adrian Gonzalez    9.00        (+12)
'10         10.53       vs 9.23     (-3)    GG
'11         10.13       vs 9.33     (+7)                                               Joey Votto              9.54        (+7)

Funny how those Gold Glove Awards work sometimes.  2010 was actually a sub-par defensive season for Pujols, so naturally, he wins the Gold Glove Award.  There may have been a better candidate that year, but when you consider the larceny Derek Lee pulled off in two different seasons, we'll let this one slide.

When Albert flew the coop in 2012, his defensive prowess took a bit of a downward spike, which continued over the next two injury-plagued seasons for the now aging first baseman/DH.  It's unlikely he'll spend enough quality time at first base over the remainder of his career to qualify for another Gold Glove Award.  If he does win another, it's more likely his defensive metrics will be closer to Derek Lee's than the younger version of himself.

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