Category Archives: Gold Glove

Stupid Awards Season

Well, here we are. The postseason is over. The preseason is many months away. Roar of the Tigers has stopped watching TV in the name of actually (gasp!) doing work. This season… what season is this? It is a season constructed by Major League Baseball in an attempt to appease us, to give us something to talk about that isn’t trades involving Melky Cabrera or the sad state of Oriole affairs. Yes, we are firmly in the midst of Stupid Awards Season.

Stupid Awards Season asks you to care deeply about these poorly determined awards. And you want to care! You want to care because you want your favorite super wicked awesome baseball player to be recognized by everyone for his super wicked awesomeness. At the same time, you don’t want to care, because you (if you are a sane, moderately educated baseball fan) recognize that these awards are at some essential level mostly what Jim Leyland would call, ahem, horsesh!t.

FOR INSTANCE.


drawings by Samara Pearlstein

Miguel Cabrera wins the batting title. Miguel Cabrera does not win the Silver Slugger. I would tell you how this makes sense, but I cannot, because it actually makes no sense whatsoever. Adrian Gonzalez is a good hitter and all, but Miguel was better than him at basically everything you can legally do with a bat in the game of baseball this year.

It’s ok, because Miguel loves his own bat and has no need for that stupid silver hardware, but it’s the principle of the thing.

BUT THEN

Alex Avila wins the Silver Slugger at catcher. Did he catch more games than anyone else in the universe? Yes. Does this mean that, in my biased little fan-heart, I think he deserves all the awards ever? Yes, yes, of course. Were his overall numbers better than, saaaaay, those of Mike Napoli, who basically hit better across the board and went to the World Series to boot? Erm. Well.

But, you see: this we like. Alex Avila’s durability and (perhaps more importantly) dogged tenacity convince voters that he deserves a metal stick more than Mike Napoli’s 1.046 OPS does. Stupid Awards Season!

Then Austin Jackson fails to win a Gold Glove. Okay. The fact that I wanted him to win is almost certainly, in this case, the tiny Paws in my brain guiding my thoughts. And again, it’s not as if he desperately needs it to tell us all that sometimes he makes plays so good that Rod Allen loses his mind and control of his vocal cords. Just more Stupid Awards Season nonsense.

We are still waiting on the MVP results. But Justin Verlander did get another award recently. It was Player of the Year (or something?) in the Players Choice Awards (or something?). These are even MORE made-up than Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves. They are nice because they involve charity, but basically they are a measure of how much a particular dude has impressed all the other dudes in the MLBPA in any given year.

Justin Verlander frightens his opposition and his stunning good looks have charmed his peers. He commands respect and he’s popular. This particular Stupid Award is perfect for him, and he has duly received it. Woo, yay, etc.

If a Tiger does not win the MVP award, it will not matter in the least. The award is not strictly based on merit. At root it is meaningless. But that won’t stop our righteous and strident indignation. Something to look forward to! Thanks, Stupid Awards Season!

say hello to your 2009 gold glove winning second baseman

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Is there anything fiercer than Placido Polanco? Anything more stylish, more elegant, doing more with such a large head? At second base in the American League, the answer is NO. There is Placido Polanco, and then there are the pedestrians.

Placido Polanco is an amazing defensive second baseman. He’s been great in the past and he was great again. The man was 33 years old this season (his birthday’s in October, so he’s 34 now), playing at an infield position that demands quick reflexes and good flexibility. Do you know how many games he played in this season? I will give you the answer: almost all of them.

I don’t even care about your ~*~defensive statistics~*~ and whatnot, although I know he had good ones (the Mothership sez so). Just watch this fierce cat play. He’s short and a little chunky and very balding and sometimes his little ears get cold so he wears a snood/spandex hoodie under his hat, ok, and he fields screaming line drives like a freakin’ ballerina in cleats. HATERS TO THE LEFT, YO.

He’s a free agent this offseason, so I guess this will only help his/his agent’s pleas for cash’n’years, but let me just say

WE LOVE YOU, PLACIDO, WE ARE THE ONES WHO LOVE YOU BEST, COME BACK TO USSSSSSSSS

bringin' home the gold-plated paw pads


photo by Samara Pearlstein

I was going to photoshop an image for this post, but then I realized that hey, I already have some shots of the two Tigers Gold Glove winners from this past season! They’re even standing together! My life today shall be easy!

Your American League Gold Glove winners are as follows:

C Pudge Rodriguez, Tigers
1B Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
2B Placido Polanco, Tigers
3B Adrian Beltre, Mariners
SS Orlando Cabrera, Angels
OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
OF Torii Hunter, Twins
OF Grady Sizemore, Racist Logos
P Johan Santana, Twins

The Tigers, Mariners and Twins each had 2 Gold Glovers. Lots of teams, obviously, didn’t have any, although it brings me particular joy to note that there’s not a single Wrong Sock on there, nor are there any Yankees (in fact, Youk is the only rep for the entire AL East).

We can probably chalk Pudge’s win up to reputation. He didn’t have a BAD year, defensively, but it wasn’t exactly mind-boggling. Defensive statistics should always be regarded with surly suspicion, but for catchers who worked 100+ games this year he was behind Kenji Johjima, AJ Pierzynski, Victory Martinez, Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek in fielding percentage. Very few guys stole bases off of him (although Johjima’s got him beat by one in that category). He’s second in put-outs only to Varitek.

Actually, the more I look at this, the more I wonder why Johjima didn’t win. Practically nobody stole on him, and he threw out almost as many guys as he didn’t get (40 caught vs. 47 stolen). He made only 2 errors (!!) in 133 games. He had 805 put-outs, which is good for 4th overall. So… am I missing something important?

I love Pudge, don’t get me wrong, but he seems to have won this year because he’s Pudge, not because he blew everyone else out of the defensive water. Maybe the Gold Glove awarders wanted to give him one last prize before he finally aged 100 years in a single season and dissolved into dust.

Placido Polanco won the Gold Glove at second because he is lovely and amazing. He is the only second baseman this year to play in 100+ games and end the year with a perfect fielding percentage. Nary an error, kids and kittens. Prostrate yourselves before his glory.

Since Pudge robbed Johjima of a Gold Glove, I guess it’s only fitting that Adrian Beltre should rob Brandon Inge of a Gold Glove at third. I was all prepared to defend Inge’s high error total again in the usual way, but then I checked and it turns out that he has THE EXACT SAME NUMBER OF ERRORS on the season (18) as Beltre. Their range factors (which don’t really describe ‘range’ in the sense that I mean it when I talk about the amount of ground a player can cover) for the season are practically the same. So why does Beltre deserve it over Inge, who surely has a larger ACTUAL range even if his RF doesn’t indicate that, eh?

I think you could probably make an argument for Maggs or Granderson in the outfield too. But there’s no point in getting riled up about something we should be HAPPY about, especially for Polanco, since it’s still new and exciting to him. Pudge will get the trophy and put it on a shelf where it’ll immediately disappear into the mass of Gold Gloves already there, like how a zebra uses its stripes to merge into a herd and thus avoid detection.

Sidenote: I emailed Chris McCosky about his article on Sunday night and still haven’t heard a peep. It’s now late Tuesday (or early Wednesday, depending on your outlook). I was willing to cut him some slack because it was the weekend. As every weekday goes by the slack gets taken up and I get more annoyed that someone says they have the ‘courage’ to see those they write about face to face, but can’t even work up the ‘courage’ to respond to a few simple emails. Grrrr.

gold-plated paw pads

The AL Gold Gloves are out, and the Tigers cleaned up the running by snagging two, count ’em, T-W-O of the somewhat worthlessly determined highly prized awards. No other AL team can claim that, and you all know what that means.

(If you thought it meant “quiet pride in the accomplishments of the darn solid team we put on the field this season”, you are a baseball fan. If you thought it meant “the right to be unbearably smug for a whole year and beyond”, you’re a Yankee fan, and please stop projecting onto us.)

At pitcher we have Kenny Rogers, winning his 5th Gold Glove for handy hand-work on the mound and a persistent ability to not freak the heck out if a ball comes back at him after he’s sent it in the opposite direction. I know these awards look only at the regular season, but we are under no such constraints, and Kenny more than proved his gold gloveworthiness by being the only Tiger to escape the curse placed upon the pitchers and to KEEP HIS BRAIN, EYES, AND HANDS UNINTERRUPTEDLY CONNECTED so that baseball could be played, for one sad cold night, without the crushing embarrassment and disappointment of MANY ERRORS. That’s worth somethin’, kids, that is.

At catcher we have Pudge Rodriguez, winning his 12 (billion)th Gold Glove for inhuman awesomeity in catchin’ gear. Pudge was tops in fielding percentage among AL catchers with over 100 games started. Pudge had the lowest number of bases stolen against him for any AL catcher with over 100 games started (the next closest was KC’s John Buck), in part because his past keeps guys from running on him now, but also in part because he does in fact generally just annihilate runners. Pudge only had 4 passed balls all year (4!!), which is kind of amazing when you consider the collective youth of the pitching staff he had to handle.

Pudge has a rep, for sure, but like fellow midget-height scrapper Wolverine, he is still THE BEST AT WHAT HE DOES. He is the best catcher in baseball, period, exclamation point, several additional exclamation points, final period for emphasis. A couple years back he won a Gold Glove on what even he admitted was mostly reputation. He lost all that weight to regain his mobility behind the plate and to squeeze some more runtime out of his knees and back, and lost out on the Gold Glove last year to Jason Varitek, who, if I remember correctly, actually had worse defensive stats almost across the board.

Now Pudge is back to winning his Gold Glove, and winning it on merit. Not bad for a dude in his 16th season of catching at the major league level.

Of course this just highlights how dearly we’re going to miss him when he finally does retire (or precipitously decline, whichever comes first). Admit it, kittens, much as we all (rightly) moan and cry about his h-h-h-hackin’ ways and his nonexistent on-base percentage, we’ve been spoiled rotten by having him for a catcher. Almost by definition, anyone we have after Pudge is going to be a terrible let-down, even if they’re a very good catcher in their own right.

This is one of the things that concerns me the most. Batters you can get, outfielders and infielders are there to be found, pitching you can get, and we’ve been doing pretty well with internally cultivated pitching lately anyhow. But the market for catchers is SO thin, and our minor leagues aren’t exactly brimming with mini-Pudges either.

The market for catchers is just as thin for everyone else as it is for us, of course, but the thing is, most everyone else is used to dealing with a catcher who is…. well, less than Pudge. Someone who’s not as good offensively, or defensively, or both. Since the Tigers have the best catcher out there, it’s the Tigers who are going to feel it most sorely when their current catcher retires, because it’s the Tigers who will probably be facing the most palpable drop in production in all aspects of the game.

I’ve been kind of paranoidly fixated on this one particular issue for ages now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real problem.

Your other AL Gold Glovers are Mark Teixeira at 1B; Mark Grudzielanek at 2B (I can spell it without even looking it up, bow before me); Eric Chavez at 3B; Derek Jeter at SS; Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, and Ichiro Suzuki in the OF. I’ve got no problem with Ichiro, because of course he’s Ichiro and can do sickcrazy things. Wells is also fine. Tex, Grudzie, well’n’good. Torii I thought was not up to his usual standards this season, perhaps because of the foot injury still, but eh.

Derek Jeter won because he’s Derek Jeter and for no other reason. Even just going by fielding percentage, he was 6th among shortstops who played over 100 games this year. Better than him were Alex Gonzalez (the Red Sox variety), Michael Young, Jhonny Peralta, Juan Uribe, and Orlando Cabrera. But none of them have calm eyes.

Chavez was pretty good from what I saw this season, but I’m still going to maintain that Brandon Inge should have won because, uh, because. Cut the kid some slack; he had the second-highest number of errors among all third basemen, but I think most of us agree that this is because his XTREME ATHLETICISM allows him to get to balls (and thus have near-enough misses that they’re counted as errors) that most other third basemen can’t even approach.

Say you get a weird tweener that the shortstop doesn’t quite seem able to get to. Brandon Inge flings himself at the ball and juuuuuust barely misses it, skipping off the bottom of his glove. It’s called an error. You think Eric Chavez hauls his stiff, injured body after that? No. He takes a few vigorous steps but just can’t get anywhere near the thing, it squirts into the outfield and is called a soft line drive or something. BEHOLD THIS INVENTED YET WHOLLY CONVINCING EXAMPLE.

(Hilarious trivia: if Inge is second in the AL for third baseman errors, who’s first? Answer: ARod. And unlike Inge, who mostly gets errors on weird hops and dives and hard-to-play balls, ARod’s errors often just involved straight-up bobbling. Heh.)

Oh, and we’ve apparently re-signed Dombrowski through 2011. I think it’s mostly a good thing (duh). More on that later.