The Mariners may have lost 101 games last season, but they just scored right up there with the best in baseball in winning two Rawlings Gold Glove awards.
Ichiro won for the 10th consecutive year, while Franklin Gutierrez took home his first ever prize.
The New York Yankees were the only three-glove winner, with Derek Jeter taking the prize at shortstop, Robinson Cano at second base and Mark Teixeira at first base. The Tampa Bay Rays were the only other team with multiple winners, seeing left fielder Carl Crawford grab the prize and Evan Longoria capture it at third base.
The 10th Gold Glove by Ichiro ties Ken Griffey Jr. and Hall of Famer Al Kaline of the Tigers for the most ever by an AL outfielder.
Torii Hunter of the Angels had won nine consecutive awards, but was not honored this season — bumped out by Ichiro, Gutierrez and Crawford after a switch to right field.
The Gold Gloves are often surrounded by controversy — especially with the onset of more advanced defensive metrics — and there are sure to be some complaints this season.
Jeter’s inclusion for a fifth time, despite terrible scores in advanced metrics, will surely be debated. So might the inclusion of Gutierrez as one of the league’s three best outfielders.
Gutierrez’s Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) score of 7.3 made him only the seventh-best AL outfielder, not a top-three finisher as the Gold Gloves imply. Among the outfielders scoring better were left fielder Brett Gardner of the Yankees with a league-best 21.9, Juan Pierre of the White Sox and Julio Borbon and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers.
Crawford and Ichiro finished second and third, respectively, so there won’t be much quibbling there.
In the Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric, Austin Jackson of the Tigers was first in the AL with 21, while Gardner was second with 16 and Crawford and Gutierrez tied for third place with 14. Ichiro finished sixth in that stat with 12.
But Ichiro also was recently honored with a Fielding Bible Award as the best right fielder in all of MLB. The award is chosen by a panel of statistics and media experts and newfangled stats weigh heavily in the selection.
One of the longstanding criticisms of the Gold Glove award, growing stronger in recent years as new stats became available, is that it relies more on reputation and offensive prowess than anything to do with actual defensive play. In an infamous case, Rafael Palmeiro of the Rangers won the 1999 Gold Glove at first base despite playing only 28 games there that season and spending the rest as a DH.
Ichiro did seem to benefit from his reputation in prior years when his defense arguably wasn’t among the three best of the league’s outfielders in certain seasons. By the same token, so did Hunter, who many claimed was living off his past reputation as a star center fielder with the Twins.
Gutierrez seemed to be penalized for a lack of reputation the past two seasons, before winning this time around. Defensive stats had him ranked as perhaps the best outfielder in all of MLB in 2008 and 2009, but he was not recognized as one of the three best in the AL when Gold Glove voting — done by managers and coaches — came around.
This time, he takes home the prize after a season that was still top-5, or top-10 worthy, if not necessarily among the three best. And the fact is, Gutierrez still remains among the game’s best in terms of his glove.
That’s not the case with Yankees shortstop Jeter, who wins yet again despite posting a UZR of -4.7 and a DRS of -13. Both scores are among the worst for full-time MLB shortstops (a score in the minuses is recognized as below average for a fielder).
Cano’s -0.6 score in UZR is also mediocre, while his 7 in DRS is closer to the top of the second base pack. But still, in this case, his MVP-type plate numbers may have carried the day and could spark debate.
Here is the complete AL list of winners:
1B Mark Teixeira (NYY)
2B Robinson Cano (NYY)
3B Evan Longoria (TPA)
SS Derek Jeter (NYY)
C Joe Mauer (MIN)
OF Carl Crawford (TPA)
OF Franklin Gutierrez (SEA)
OF Ichiro (SEA)
P Mark Buehrle (CWS)