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Way back on November 11, 2015, baseball announced their Gold Glove winners, for the best defensive baseball players of the 2015 campaign. The award is always mired in controversy and when it the voters are perceived to use offensive stats when selecting these awards.
So we take a look back at the 2015, best defensive players based on advanced stats. Using Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (FUBAR for short) as we attempt to be as objective as possible when evaluating these players. No web gems, no small-sampled eye tests, or highlight-reeled plays; we only care about the performances on the field.
Just like last season, we use two advanced metrics to measure a player’s defensive worth: Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). For more explanation on these two stats, we encourage you to read last year’s defensive team.
DEFENSIVE RUNS SAVED
Before we unveiled our Defensive All-Plutonium Team (why be golden when you can be radioactive, right?), here is how DRS added up in the 2015 season (minimum 850 innings):
- Most Efficient Catcher Against the Run (per Stolen Base Runs Saved or rSB): Russell Martin, for the second consecutive year, takes the prize here.
- Best Double-Play Duo (per Double Plays Runs Saved or rGDP): Despite a miserable year on the South Side, the Chicago White Sox’s Carlos Sanchez and Alexei Ramirez.
- Best Outfield Arm (per Outfield Arms Runs Saved or rARM): Any chance I get, I will always hype up the Pittsburgh Pirates for having the best outfield in Major League Baseball. Starling Marte is all alone at the top, as his outfield arm ranks as the best in baseball, beating out more famous players like Adam Jones and Yoenis Cespedes.
- Highest “Good Fielding Plays” Rating (per Good Fielding Plays Runs Saved or rGFP): We have a three-way tie: Kevin Kiermaier made a name for himself in 2015 because of his outstanding play in the Tampa Bay Rays’ outfield. Buster Posey is considered to be one of the smartest players in baseball. And finally, Mike Trout is simply “Mike Trout.”
- Best Plus/Minus Rating (rPM): Kevin Kiermaier–not a shocker here.
- Best Outfielder: Kevin Kiermaier–yes, he’s this good!
- Best Infielder: Andrelton Simmons–this guy covers more ground than an earthworm.
ULTIMATE ZONE RATING
- Best Outfield Arm (per Outfield Arm Runs or ARM): Adam Jones says “not so fast,” as the UZR defensive rankings calculate he had the best outfield arm in 2015, over Cespedes and J.D. Martinez.
- Best Double-Play Duo (per Double-Play Runs or DPR): Carlos Sanchez and Alexei Ramirez.
- Best Range (per Range Runs or RngR): Kevin Kiermaier by a landslide.
- Best at Minimizing Errors (per Error Runs or ErrR): Andrelton Simmons
- Best Outfielder: Kevin Kiermaier
- Best Infielder: Andrelton Simmons
ALL-PLUTONIUM DEFENSIVE TEAM
FUBAR Says: Wilson Ramos
Out of nowhere, Ramos comes in and steals one away from Molina, who at this rate will be winning the Gold Glove award until he retires. UZR does not keep track of catchers’ defense so we had to use the Defensive WAR portion of the WAR calculation (where Ramos placed third). DRS had Ramos (and Buster Posey) as the best defensive catcher in 2015.
Molina would place in third in these total rankings. Salvador Perez was second and is your American League representative here.
FUBAR Says: Paul Goldschmidt
Goldie can do it all: he runs, hits, crushes the ball, and brings a great glove to first base. The rest of the top five defensive list at first base go to National League first basemen: Brandon Belt, Adrian Gonzalez, Anthony Rizzo, and Freddie Freeman.
In the American League, Mike Napoli gets the highest rating at the position (placing sixth overall). Eric Hosmer, ranked 15th overall among defensive first basemen. I don’t get it either, but the numbers are the numbers.
FUBAR Says: Ian Kinsler and Dee Gordon tied for first
Two very different players. One guy depends on instincts, positioning, veteran savvy, and intelligence to get by at a position that is usually cruel to “old guys” like Ian Kinsler. The other player, Gordon, depends on athleticism, speed, and youth to get by at the same position. Different styles, same result just shows how beautiful this game of baseball can be.
Altuve ranked seventh overall in the defensive rankings as the position was stacked with great defensive players. White Sox Carlos Sanchez, mentioned before because of his double play prowess, was ranked third in these rankings.
FUBAR Says: Andrelton Simmons
An absolute crime that Simmons was snubbed for this award, but those who know are well aware of Simmons’ otherworldly talent at short.
Crawford would finish in third behind rookie Nick Ahmed.
Didi Gregorius would finish as the highest-ranked AL player (fifth overall). The popular Escobar, coming off the World Series win with the Royals and personifying the current “Royals’ Way” of baseball would finish eighth overall.
FUBAR Says: Adrian Beltre
Beltre, arguably the best fielding third basemen of the last five to seven years, gets snubbed as youth was selected before results. What results? How about the fact that Beltre dominated both DRS and UZR categories? I guess defensive prowess does not really matter in the Gold Glove voting process.
Arenado finished as the fifth best defensive third basemen as Matt Duffy was the highest-ranked NL player at this position (second overall). Josh Donaldson and Machado would finish third and fourth respectively.
Gold Glove Winners: Starling Marte and Yoenis Cespedes
FUBAR Says: Starling Marte/Yoenis Cespedes
Both players tied for first in these rankings and deservedly so. Both guys proved to have cannons for arms and Marte is becoming one of the best, up-and-coming, all-around players in baseball. No argument to be made here.
Gold Glove Winners: Kevin Kiermaier and A.J. Pollock
FUBAR Says: Kevin Kiermaier
What else can be said about Kiermaier that has not been mentioned, heretofore? The guy is a must-see event any time a ball is hit anywhere near his vicinity in the Rays’ outfield.
A.J. Pollock would rank sixth overall in these defensive rankings. Billy Hamilton would finish fourth overall as the NL representative. Other good names worth mentioning are Lorenzo Cain and Kevin Pillar (your second and third best defensive centerfielders of 2015).
FUBAR Says: Jason Heyward
It’s not even close, Heyward is by far the best defensive right fielder in baseball. His defensive prowess is a major reason why several teams went after his services this offseason, promising a bagfull of money to join their squad and what turned out to be the Chicago Cubs’ number one priority this winter.
Albeit, Heyward’s youth and offensive potential were the other main reasons why teams were clamoring for his services, with these newer advanced stats that accurately evaluate defensive play, we might be looking at more players getting justly rewarded for their fielding talents.
Curtis Granderson, once believed to be a washed-up, failed five-tool player, proved he still has what it takes to be a productive MLB player.
In the American League, the voters got it right with Kole Calhoun, as the Angels’ right fielder finished third overall in these rankings as he gets credit for having one of the best arms at his position.
So here’s a recap of our 2015 FUBAR Plutonium All-Defensive Team:
- No Pitchers
- Wilson Ramos
- Paul Goldschmidt
- Ian Kinsler/Dee Gordon
- Adrian Beltre
- Andrelton Simmons
- Starling Marte/Yoenis Cespedes
- Kevin Kiermaier
- Jason Heyward
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