The 2014 Bizarro Gold Glove Award Winners
With the winners of the 2014 Gold Glove Awards being announced on Wednesday, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at some of the worst defenders in baseball. Also, please note that with this article being about defense, fWAR only represents defensive fWAR, unless I say other wise. Lets have some fun.
Pitcher - Phil Hughes and Scott Feldman (tie)
Pitchers don’t make a ton of plays. So, although there aren’t a lot of defensive metrics for pitchers and because they really don’t matter all that much, I thought about completely leaving them off the list. Until I saw that Phil Hughes had -8 DRS. That’s pretty impressive for a pitcher. Scott Feldman had -7, but he also had a stolen base runs saved above average of -5. We’ll call it a draw.
Catcher - Travis d'Arnaud
Catchers were pretty interesting. The catcher position was the only position that saw positive fWARs among every qualifier. However, Travis d’Arnaud was the worst with a 0.7 fWAR. The next lowest was 4.7. The fact that he had a positive fWAR is pretty incredible, considering every metric he had was negative, including -15 DRS. This just shows us that defensive metrics, although improving, still have their flaws.
First Baseman - Ryan Howard
The first base position was a complete 180 from the catcher position. No qualifying first baseman had a positive fWAR. With nearly every first baseman being in the running for the award, I thought about giving it to Eric Hosmer, just because he won a Gold Glove with a -10.1 fWAR. However, he just wasn’t quite bad enough to qualify. So, this award goes to Ryan “RBI” Howard. Adam LaRoche actually had the worst fWAR of all first baseman, but he had 0 DRS compared to Howard’s -10. And with all the competitors being so close, I had to go with the player who had the best (worst) resume.
Second Baseman - Jose Altuve
This one is pretty easy. However, this takes nothing away from the season Jose Altuve had at the plate. Despite having a -10 fWAR, Altuve still registered a 5.2 fWAR, sandwiched by Robinson Cano and Yasiel Puig. Altuve was fantastic in 2014, but his defense was far from it. Although his metrics are slightly deflated due to his playing a premium position (over half of qualifying second basemen posted negative UZR’s), he was still the worst rated second baseman in baseball. His UZR of 14.7 was the worst in baseball among second basemen, handily beating (being beaten by?) Jason Kipnis’ second-worst UZR of -9.7. He also touted the worst range rating among second basemen, again, very handily at -13.5.
Shortstop - Yunel Escobar
Another easy one. We all will miss watching Derek Jeter let baseballs roll into left field, but it looks like Yunel Escobar should replace him nicely. His -24 DRS and -11 fWAR were the worst in baseball among shortstops, with the next worse coming in at -16 and -5.5, respectively. The numbers don’t get any prettier.
Of the 261 balls hit in Escobar’s “zone,” only 174 were fielded. That’s 67%, for those of you counting at home, and the only shortstop worse at making routine plays was a 40-year old who shouldn’t have been playing the position. Escobar posted a -26 UZR, another landslide “victory,” between him and the next worst in that category.
Third Baseman - Nick Castellanos
Nick Castellanos is not only the Bizarro Gold Glove winner at third base, but he gets the Bizarro Platinum Glove as well. Castellanos was absolutely brutal at third base in 2014. His -30 DRS is the worst mark in all of baseball, at any position. He made plays on just 58% of balls in his zone, the worst mark in all of baseball, once again, at any position. He was also the only player to drop below 60% and the next lowest, Conor Gillaspie, wasn’t close to dropping that far, at 65%. So, the designated hitter position is surely in Castellanos future, although even Billy Butler fielded 79% of balls in his zone. So he might even make the list for the worst defending designated hitters in the future. The kid has potential.
Left Fielder - Domonic Brown
Oh boy. Domonic Brown. He has certainly been an entertaining player to watch throughout his career - good and bad. Of all the players on this list, Brown’s future might be the most uncertain. Although Phillies general manager Ruben Amero Jr. stated that Brown was a player that the Phillies would build around, trade rumors surrounding Brown have recently popped up. From May 1, 2013 to June 6, 2013, Brown posted a slash of .326/.341/.727 with 15 homers in 135 PA. Since then, he has posted a slash of .245/.301/.377 with 19 homers in 824 PA. So who knows where he is going?
However, we do know he is an awful left fielder. His -8 DRS, -12.8 UZR/150, and his -14.8 fWAR all ranked last among qualifying left fielders. It is also important to note that Michael Brantley was the second-worst everyday left fielder in baseball, which makes his argument to overthrow the Alex Gordon reign in left field even more hilarious. You can have that one for free. Back on topic now. Brown’s one-month offensive spurt in 2013 made up for his defensive woes, enough to give him a 1.7 total fWAR, identical to that of Anthony Rizzo, Erick Aybar, and Jimmy Rollins. With his anemic offensive performance in 2014, however, he dipped to a below-replacement level -1.7 total fWAR.
Center Fielder - Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler is one of the more boring players on this list. He isn’t an excellent hitter, huge prospect, or a once stellar defender. He has no narrative. He’s just a very bad center fielder. We have seen some pretty big negative numbers on this, but Fowler’s UZR takes the cake. At -36.2, Fowler steam rolled over the competition, beating out previously awarded Yunel Escobar’s -26.0 for the worst UZR, at any position, in all of baseball. He was a close second to Nick Castellanos for the Bizarro Platinum Glove.
Right Fielder - Torii Hunter
Outside of Jason Heyward, it’s hard to point out a right fielder who is a good defender. Only two other right fielders had a positive fWAR, with the highest being Nori Aoki at 0.3. He also posted -8 DRS. So, there were quite a few candidates for this award. In the end, Torii Hunter just edged out David Murphy and Curtis Granderson as the worst right fielder in baseball. Granderson may have very well been the winner in center field if Juan Lagares wasn’t playing deep safety at Citi Field. However, he is a right fielder, and as bad as he was, he was not as bad as Hunter.
I will give Hunter a little bit of a break because of his age and because of how bad the Tigers defense was as a whole. The Tigers outfield only posted one positive fWAR, of just 0.7, by Rajai Davis. This as in just a little over 370 innings in center field. Davis posted a -11.5 defensive fWAR in left field over 680 innings, and J.D. Martinez wasn’t any better with a -7.3 defensive fWAR in left. So the Tigers outfield was just awful as a whole. However, that doesn’t change that Hunter was the worst. By a lot. He posted a -24 defensive fWAR and a -20.1 UZR, leveling the competition in those areas, while playing a non-premium position. Ouch.