By Shannon Drayer
For Dustin Ackley, I would imagine it was an honor to be announced as a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Just three years into playing second base it is great recognition. Brendan Ryan missing out on the award is a different matter. Apparently, managers and coaches from opposing teams were not paying attention.
Robinson Cano of the Yankees topped Ackley while J.J. Hardy of Baltimore took the honors at shortstop. Ryan blew away the competition at shortstop in the Fielding Bible Awards with 27 defensive runs saved. Hardy had 18. In UZR Ryan finished with a 14.7 rating while Hardy was well behind with a 11.4. Not even close.
You want sparkly plays? Ryan had those with a good number of web gems and plays that if you were watching would have left you shaking your head. I think it is safe to say that a few of those plays could only have been pulled off by Ryan.
What he didn't have was the lead in traditional stats.
Ryan trailed Hardy in fielding percentage and errors. Ironically, his great range may be what contributed to this as there were times he his got glove on a ball he had no business getting to only to see it get by. His great play in a sense was raising the bar on his numbers. Numbers that should mean far less than the more advanced metrics. Numbers that it would appear went unnoticed by the managers and coaches who voted.
While the award is intended to be given to the best defensive player at each position in each league, in reality it is given to the player that the managers and coaches believe is the best player. I have seen them filling out ballots from time to time throughout the years and talking about who they would vote for and I cannot remember a time UZR or defensive runs saved came up. I don't know how much homework they do. I suspect it is minimal seeing that they vote during the season when they don't have a ton of time to focus on other players. They most likely are voting on what they have seen with their own eyes and as they cannot vote for their own players, they are only looking at a handful of games that they saw firsthand.
The system is far from perfect if it is intended to name the best defensive players. It is certainly interesting to see who the managers view as the best, but if it is to truly identify the best then perhaps finalists should be chosen by a panel that will do the homework and then passed on to the managers and coaches along with notes on all of the statistics.
It is tough to see Ryan denied the award but to tell you the truth I was surprised to hear that he was even voted a finalist. Despite his terrible hitting numbers and playing for a last-place team, his play received a high level of recognition and that feels like a step in the right direction.