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Gloves, Gold and Otherwise

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 16: Brendan Ryan #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws to first base against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium on September 16 2010 in St. Louis Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 16: Brendan Ryan #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws to first base against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium on September 16 2010 in St. Louis Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, the American League Gold Gloves were announced. Oh, the winner of the Derek Jeter Glove was announced as well, and Derek Jeter won.

Of course, all the AL Gold Gloves taught us this year is just how stupid the award is. Again. 'Cause, you know, we didn't get the message the hundred or so times we've had it drilled into our skulls before. Most years the award for best defensive whatever just goes to the best offensive whatever, but even that wasn't good enough this time around. Apparently this year the voters all just went down the ballot until they recognised a dude who plays for the Yankees and they've heard of. Well, except Alex Rodriguez, of course, because that guy sucks.

Oh, well. No point in letting the stupidity of a group of voters ruin our days, right? You're damned right I'm right!

Anyway, the National League GG awards will be announced today, and the season is far enough in the rear view mirror now I feel fairly comfortable doing a bit of retrospecticising. We all know the Cardinal offense was a little, um, iffy in 2010. On the other hand, relatively little has really been said (or written), about whatever value the Cards derived from the defense. We all know Skip Schumaker was terrible, because writers like me won't stop quoting his UZR numbers, but just how did the Cardinals perform with the glove overall?

Well, to start off, let me say this: Albert Pujols and Brendan Ryan were both still pretty awesome on defense this year. Albert wasn't quite as brilliant as he had been the past few seasons, but he was still better than average, which in combination with the rest of the stuff he does is just, well, super. Brendan was outstanding, especially by +/-, which absolutely loves him. Let's put it this way: plus/minus wants to take Brendan behind the middle school and get him pregnant. Understand?

On the downside, Colby had a bad season, Skip was awful, and while David Freese was pretty much okay, his replacements were not. Here's some numbers:

Player Runs Saved UZR Runs Saved +/-
Albert Pujols 1.5 4
Brendan Ryan 11.5 24
Matt Holliday 8.2 8
David Freese -0.6 -4
Colby Rasmus -6.5 -4
Ryan Ludwick 1.2 7
Skip Schumaker -15.4 -9
Felipe Lopez -2.1 -2
Jon Jay -4.9 0

Note: the numbers used in each case are for the player's primary position. In Lopez's case I used third base; Jon Jay and Ludwick both go in as right fielders. 

I could do some more, but I think that's probably enough. I mean, do you honestly want to know what sort of defensive value Pedro Feliz brought to the table? (Spoiler alert: no, you do not. I actually did look it up, and it ain't pretty.)

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I sort of am all the same. Why? Because the defense on this team essentially looks like the offense. You have three really, really good players, one or two that are kind of meh, and then a bunch who are just godawful. In the case of the defense it's Albert, Holliday, and Brendan, whereas on offense the good players are Albert, Holliday, and Rasmus.

Speaking or Rasmus, both systems hate his defense in 2010, and I'm fairly willing to take that at almost face value. Colby did not have a good season with the glove this past year. I'm probably wishcasting psychology here, but it seemed to me he had a bit of a crisis of confidence. I could just be buying into some half-assed narrative, though, too. Still, watching the orange and white one night in and night out he looks more like the outstanding defender he was in 2009 than the below-average guy he was in 2010 to me. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but I personally am optimistic Colby is a much, much better fielder than he looked to be this year.

Skip really is bad. I know it seems like I'm always picking on the guy, but I swear it isn't my intent. Still, it's tough to ignore the fact he cost the team somewhere in the neighbourhood of one to one and a half wins just with the glove. And unlike Colby, who we have seen outstanding defense from and has the talent to do it again, I think this may be the absolute best we could reasonably hope for from Skip.

I should have put him in the table, but I didn't, and now I don't feel like going back and changing it, but Tyler Greene was a little less than a run below average by UZR and a run above average by +/-. For some reason there seems to be some angst about Tyler's defense, but I've been fairly happy with his work in the field, to be honest. (He was also a run better than average at second base by +/-, and half a run below by UZR. Just to throw another log on the "Tyler should be playing more" fire.)

The only other players of note who got enough playing time to be worth worrying about were Randy Winn and Aaron Miles, in my opinion, and neither one were very good. Miles was right around neutral, Winn was worse.

Now, please don't think I'm trying to make any statements about these players' abilities going forward based on this very limited sampling. Albert and Holliday are really the only players we have large enough samples of to judge their true talent level, and both are plus fielders. Still, just looking at the players, I think these numbers mostly jibe up pretty well with what we saw in 2010. Colby struggled to throw the ball and looked like he was thinking himself into knots out there. Brendan was so good you almost (almost, I said!), forgot about how lousy he was at the plate.

But what we can see here is that the 2010 Cardinals helped themselves, a little, overall. By either UZR or +/- the Cardinals were a little better than average, but they did it in much the same way the offense got to the middle of the pack: a couple players put up great performances that mostly carried along the rest of the squad. So while we're talking about a marked lack of depth in the offense and being top heavy, the defense is really cruising along in pretty much the same condition. Still, it could have been worse, I suppose.

So back to the awards which prompted me to put together a graph of defensive metrics in the first place: the Gold Gloves. I expect Molina to win one, and that's it. If they did the outfield in a sensible way, Holliday would have a pretty good chance in left, but that's not the way they do it. Pujols won't win one because, well, just because. He didn't win the last couple season, when he was flat-out amazing; I can't imagine he'll win one this year when he was a tick below his own ridiculous standards on both sides of the ball. Brendan won't win one because he doesn't hit much and plays in St. Louis. Just the way it is. And yes, it does suck.

Then again, maybe all the voters will remember they heard a lot about this Rasmus kid during the season, but they don't quite recall why, but hey, I know his name! So maybe he wins. Then other teams' fans can bitch for once while we try to justify our player winning an award he didn't deserve. That sounds kind of nice, actually.

The Baron's Playlist for the 10th of November, 2010

"Congratulations" - MGMT

"Be My Baby" - the Ronettes

"Babies" - Pulp

"Mother" - John Lennon

"Parents" - Descendents

"A Better Son/Daughter" - Rilo Kiley

"Suddenly Everything Has Changed" - the Flaming Lips