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good glovin'

nl gold glove awards to be announced later today. molina and pujols are the cards' best bets for some hardware; neither has won one before. the cardinal franchise has won over 70 gold gloves, which i believe is the highest total of any team.

defensive stat guru chris dial already has unveiled his own list of gold glovers, which includes only one cardinal: yadi. another cardinal, an outfielder, might have made dial's list but for lack of playing time --- and i'm not talking about edmonds. by dial's measurements, juan encarnacion saved more runs per unit of playing time than any right fielder in the league. but he spent so much time playing center that his overall run-prevention as an RF suffered; he trailed brian giles by 3 runs as a result. giles and encarnacion paced the competition by a wide margin. encarnacion was also the single most valuable glove on the st louis team, per these lists. here are the cardinal starters, and their runs prevented as measured by dial:

encarnacion 9
molina 8
eckstein 7
edmonds 6
rolen 5
miles 1
pujols 0

no st louis left fielder logged enough innings at the position to qualify for inclusion on dial's list.

dial bases his defensive evaluations on zone rating, defined as "the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive `zone', as measured by STATS reporters." he admits that ZR is an imperfect measurement system, but dial's results true up pretty well with the best-regarded defensive metric, UZR (a souped-up version of zone rating) --- and they're available for free. advanced defensive stats inevitably generate debate; the suggestion the juan encarnacion was the cards' most valuable defender might draw a challenge or two. i'm neither defending nor criticizing these conclusions, merely offering them up for discussion.

the cardinals' infield defense was good but not great in 2006, according to dial. eckstein and rolen saved 12 runs between them; in his best years, rolen used to save twice as many runs as that by himself. pujols grades out as a neutral defensive player, which result i would question; two of his better talents (scooping low throws and cutting down the lead runner on bunts) are invisible under this system. edmonds rates above average among centerfielders, maintaining some run-saving ability well into his 30s --- which is more than other over-30 cfs (andruw, junior) can say.

this is only one of several freely published defensive rating systems (gassko's Range, dave pinto's PMR, and the rally monkey's system being some others). i tend not to trust any single rating in isolation, but when a player scores well (or poorly) by all the yardsticks, it lends credibility to the conclusion. the cardinals assign greater weight to defensive ability (and stat-based measurement systems) than other organizations, perhaps because UZR's creator, mitchel lichtman, used to be on the st louis payroll. accordingly, it's worth paying attention to these defensive metrics, because they can sometimes shed light on jocketty's decisions. two of the outfielders st louis went after last winter, encarnacion and larry bigbie, both scored well on every defensive scale. be interesting to see whether (and to what degree) defense informs this winter's roster rebuild.