Colorado Rockies: Arenado and LeMahieu win 2018 Gold Glove Awards

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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: DJ LeMahieu #9 of the Colorado Rockies celebrates a win with Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies after a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: DJ LeMahieu #9 of the Colorado Rockies celebrates a win with Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies after a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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A little under two weeks since Rawlings announced the three nominees at each position in both leagues for the 2018 Gold Glove awards, the two Colorado Rockies nominees, Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu, took home the hardware to add to their trophy cases back home.

Was it ever really in question?

For the sixth straight season to begin his career, Colorado Rockies All-Star Nolan Arenado has been crowned the best defensive third baseman in the National League, and has also passed Larry Walker for the most Gold Gloves in franchise history, according to the Denver Post‘s Patrick Saunders.

The advanced defensive metrics were mostly kind to Arenado in 2018. He recorded the third-best season of his career in defensive runs above average (DEF, where 0 is average) at 7.9 runs, and ultimate zone rating (UZR) at 5.8, according to Fangraphs.

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For comparison, Washington’s Anthony Rendon and Milwaukee’s Travis Shaw, the other two finalists, posted a DEF of 7.9 runs and 2.5 runs, respectively, and a UZR of 5.9 and 2.2, respectively. 

However, the site reports that Arenado was good for just 5 defensive runs saved (DRS) this season, by far the worst of his career. Before 2018, his worst season by DRS was back in 2014, when he had 16.

Sports Info Solutions’ Mark Simon shared his thoughts earlier this season on the steep drop-off:

Those tweets were from mid-June and, obviously, he didn’t make up that ground in the remaining games since.

Fangraphs had Rendon at -6 DRS and Shaw had 9.

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Traditional metrics had mixed reviews, though. In 1328.1 innings, he assisted in 37 double plays, two shy of his career-best 39 in 2015. He had 312 assists, again his third best number. His fielding percentage was just .967, though, and he committed 14 errors. Both were the third-worst of his career.

What this means is voters are starting to move away from subjective traditional metrics like errors and fielding percentages that are based on errors, and toward the more advanced metrics that paint a better picture of who the player really is.

Second baseman DJ LeMahieu also won the honors for the second year in a row and third time in his career. In doing so, he became the fifth player in Rockies history to win at least three Gold Gloves. The other four in that club are Arenado, Larry Walker, Carlos González and Todd Helton, according to the Rockies’ public relations Twitter account.

LeMahieu’s 2018 was arguably the best defensive season he’s ever played, and he was rewarded for it. He had a UZR of 11.0, 18 DRS and his DEF was 12.9. All were by far the best marks of any season in his career. Chicago’s Javier Baez, one of the other two finalists, had a UZR of 1.2, 5 DRS and DEF of 3.6.

The closer race LeMahieu won was with Wong, who was competitive in all three categories with a 13.4 UZR, 19 DRS and a DEF of 15.0.

Traditional metrics did favor LeMahieu, though. LeMahieu’s four errors and .993 fielding percentage were better than Wong’s nine and .981 and Baez’s six and .984. His 83 double plays and 378 assists were better than Wong’s 68 and 306, and Baez’s 56 and 204.

If LeMahieu isn’t re-signed by the Rockies this offseason, Colorado will certainly miss his defensive production at second. With Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson earning reps in the middle infield in 2018, both will enter next spring ready to prove they can take over for the seven-year Rockies vet.

Next. 3 breakout candidates for the Rockies in 2019. dark

Arenado will almost certainly be back with the Rockies in 2019 as he enters his final season before becoming a free agent next winter. Colorado’s general manager, Jeff Bridich, has stated he has no plans to trade the franchise cornerstone, so look for Arenado to make a strong case for his seventh Gold Glove at the hot corner next season.

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