Major League Baseball presented its Gold Glove Awards (given to the best fielder in each position) on Tuesday, and Toronto Blue Jays fans seemed pleasantly surprised but also moderately upset by the results.
On one hand, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. secured a Gold Glove at first base, capping his against-the-odds transition from an underperforming third baseman to a top-notch defenseman.
But on the other side of the diamond, in the hot corner, some people are of the opinion that Baltimore Orioles third baseman Ramon Urías didn’t deserve as much as, say, Matt Chapman. Starting pitcher Ross Stripling, Chapman’s Toronto teammate in 2022, expressed disappointment with the results.
So was Stripling right? Has Chapman had his fourth gold glove stolen? Let’s take a look.
From the data alone, it’s clear, at least metrically, that Chapman’s 2022 season wasn’t good enough to earn a gold glove. He ranked closer to the average third baseman on saved defensive runs (DRS) and above average outs (OAA) than the league best.
In 2022, Urías topped those two important categories despite playing just 118 games, the fewest (excluding 2020) for an AL Gold Glove-winning third baseman since Wade Boggs won the honor with just 97 games won during lockout -shortened 1994 season.
After seeing Chapman regularly do warm-ups in the field before the game, I can say that he is one of a kind. Basically he is a stud. The California native employs a crouch-ready stance that keeps his body stable, and he uses a repeatable, exaggerated throwing motion that ensures his throws to first base have four-seam backspin. Very rarely, if ever, would you see a throw from Chapman going up the first baseline home.
Because Chapman is so athletic, his range is one of his greatest assets. He can cover the ground by moving to the left, often ending games with dramatic diving thrusts. At times this season, however, he struggled with plays toward the third baseline. Those are the hardest plays a third baseman can make, but that didn’t stop him from repeating that play over and over.
After a particularly intense pre-game infield session this season, in which Chapman drilled those plays from behind the pocket onto his backhand (and apparently didn’t live up to his own high standards), I watched the 29-year-old drop his glove in frustration up in the air, then throw a baseball into the 500-level seats in left field. He is an uncompromising competitor.
But it’s not just the mechanics that have made Chapman great this season. His chatter on the field, his hill visits and his ability to shortstop and turn double plays all had a major impact on the Blue Jays infield.
I watched Chapman overcame some early hiccups, adapting to Rogers Center infield, and turned out a season that I would visually consider Gold Glove caliber.
In 2019, Chapman fielded 28 DRS and 15 OAA. Why were his numbers so low in 2022?
Let’s use OAA, an area-based defense metric calculated by Statcast, because their databases are the most accessible. That year, the system gave him the lowest defensive rank of his career.
One of the biggest differences in Chapman’s defensive profile this year was how often he played shortstop. Statcast recorded that Chapman briefly attempted 108 games with a 67 percent success rate, good for 0 OAA. For the first time in his career, Chapman also technically recorded four reps at second base, where Statcast measured his 75 percent win rate at the keystone as 17 percent lower than his expected win rate, giving him a minus-1 OAA.
As we know, the Blue Jays pushed their defense 50.3 percent of the time, the third-highest tally in baseball. It appears that when Toronto moved Chapman from his natural spot at the hot corner, he didn’t make the above-average plays he would normally make at third base. And since he was out of position so often, those non-third-base numbers dragged his overall OAA down.
Of course, that doesn’t answer why Chapman only produced a 2 OAA specifically at third base this season. For that, you can root through a variety of theories. Chapman saw significantly fewer defensive chances in games that have always been his forte, according to Statcast. Perhaps the rest of the league simply played better defense this season and raised the bar on what was defined as “average.” We can go on and on.
It’s hard not to give up on the defensive numbers, grim as they are. The Sabermetric firmly rates Urías as a far superior defender, despite making eight errors in 118 games while Chapman made five errors in 155 games.
My bigger complaint isn’t that Chapman missed his fourth gold glove; For me, it’s more about why Statcast suddenly devalued its defense. I think the constant rotation of the Blue Jays just put too much strain on Chapman, forcing him to attack games outside of his comfort zone.
In the end, Chapman was undoubtedly Toronto’s defensive MVP, and his contributions were a major factor in the club’s run into the postseason. That counts for something, even if it’s not recognized with a gold glove.
More from Yahoo Sports
#Blue #Jays #Matt #Chapman #robbed #Gold #Glove #Award