On Sunday, November 4th, the Gold Glove Winners for the 2018 season will be announced. The finalists for CF include a very familiar face for White Sox fans: Adam Engel. He, along with Mike Trout and Jackie Bradley Jr., comprise a stacked CF competition. However, despite the name recognition that comes with players like the best in baseball and this year’s ALCS MVP, Adam Engel should be the winner of the Gold Glove Award in CF.
MLB StatCast Data provides a ton of awesome information to judge a player’s defense on. However, let’s just start with some basic statistics to start our story (quick note: only JBJ’s statistics in CF will be considered):
FLD%: (1) Trout: 1.000!, (2) Bradley, Jr: .984, (3) Engel: .981
Assists: (1) Bradley Jr: 9, (2) Trout: 7, (3) Engel: 5
Now, already you might be thinking that this is technically only a two-player race between JBJ and Trout. However, these two statistics don’t tell the whole story: Errors are still a very subjective part of the game, and a strong arm only tells part of a defender’s story. So, let’s get into the next tier of statistics: DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average). These measures, from Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus, respectively, take an approach towards measuring how much better a player is than the average CF by measuring how many “runs” above or below average a player is worth:
DRS: (1) Trout: 8, (2) Engel: 1, (3) Bradley Jr: -2
UZR: (1) Bradley Jr: 7.4, (2) Trout: 4.0, (3) Engel: -0.6
FRAA: (1) Engel: 9.6, (2) Bradley Jr: 6.5, (3) Trout: -2.3,
Clearly, these metrics lead to very different conclusions. UZR tells the story best, since clearly breaks things down into different categories: arm, error, and range. JBJ’s greatest asset is his arm (7.6 of the 7.4 come from his arm factor… yes, you read that correctly), but he is average to below average elsewhere. Mike Trout is above average in every factor, but does not have a stand-out trait such as JBJ or Engel. Engel’s greatest asset, unsurprisingly, is his range, which is well above either Trout or JBJ.
So, thus far, we really haven’t seen someone overcome themselves in this race. Each player leads in a different advanced defensive metric, so we aren’t getting anywhere yet. So, why do I believe Engel should win the Gold Glove? That’s where MLB’s StatCast data comes into play. This data looks largely into the range of a player.
The first stat to look at here is called Outs Above Average (OAA). It takes a look at Hit Probability (how likely a ball put in play is likely to be a hit) and uses it to determine what players have made some of the most difficult catches consistently. Here are the league rankings:
3rd: Lorenzo Cain: 19
4th: Adam Engel: 17
T-9th: Mookie Betts/Jackie Bradley Jr./strong>: 11
T-15th: Jacoby Jones/Mike Trout: 8
So, this further confirms what we’ve seen already: Adam Engel not only has the best range amongst the three CF’s up for the Gold Glove Award, but also had the best range amongst all American League CF’s. This is not surprising either: Adam Engel was second amongst AL CF’s last season in OAA. Who finished first? 2017 AL CF Gold Glove Winner Byron Buxton.
Another interesting StatCast metric to look at is Catch Percentage Added. It takes a look at what percentage of fly balls a player was “expected” to catch, and what percentage more or less than this expected value he was able to catch. Basically, it’s a measure of how much better or worse the player was than he was expected to be:
Adam Engel: 5% Catch Percentage Added
Mike Trout/JBJ: 2% Catch Percentage Added
As I’ve already mentioned, StatCast reinforces an earlier idea: Engel has the strongest glove of all those considered. At the end of the day, it really depends on your definition of a “Gold Glove Winner”. How much should a player’s arm be factored into this award? Do the metrics do enough to really factor in all facets of the “runs” a fielder can save? Is having great range and a subpar arm enough?
In my opinion, Adam Engel deserves to be the winner of the Gold Glove award. His bat and arm may be subpar, but his range is amongst the best in baseball, and I believe that is what the Gold Glove winner should represent: a player who is going to be able to track down baseballs for a pitcher when he needs the outs the most. Engel has been an incredibly reliable CF on the routine plays, and has a knack for being able to make the most difficult plays look routine. He might not have won a World Series ring recently, and he certainly isn’t the best player in baseball, but a solid argument can be made for just how good Adam Engel is defensively. We will find out what the judges think on Sunday night.
… Oh yeah, and these plays can’t hurt Engel’s case either… This is for those who will want to make an “eye test” argument.
Featured Photo: Brandon Anderson, Graphics Extraordinaire (@b_son4)