So Brendan Ryan didn't pick up his first Gold Glove yesterday. If he had to lose to anybody, Troy Tulowitzki is
The Best Choice, because at least Tulowitzki is a fine defensive player. Derek Jeter winning is frustrating not because, say, Elvis Andrus didn't win; he's got plenty of time, and according to the metrics it seems like no American League shortstop had a really stellar defensive season. It's frustrating because Derek Jeter won—because he is so clearly bad, and so clearly past his prime besides, that it makes it obvious that the only people who take the Gold Glove awards seriously are the ones who aren't voting on it.
Tulowitzki doesn't show much more care; hitting 15 home runs in September made it difficult to avoid his name in the news just as the ballots were being mailed out. But he's a good shortstop, and the defensive metrics are rough enough that I'd be loath to choose between a +12-15 defensive shortstop and a +15-27 defensive shortstop, just to choose from the two stats available on Baseball-Reference.
The Worst Choice, because now that Troy Tulowitzki has won one he'll ride his outstanding hitting and Team Leader status to Gold Gloves until the Rockies are forced, at 37, to offer him three guaranteed years at a number that's ridiculously above market value. To win a Gold Glove once Tulowitzki is established Ryan will have hit .300 and then wait for Tulowitzki to get hurt again. It'll help if he hits .350 in September. So I like the Tulowitzki pick in 2010, but the ideal pro-Ryan choice would have been in his mid-thirties and headed for free agency.
I wasn't sure just how gracious I wanted to be, so I left both options here.
Meanwhile: Another Japanese shortstop is on the horizon. Maybe this is an awkward time to mention that?
I will make no secret of my irrational impulse toward Japanese imports—the vague differences in the way baseball is played over there, and the very specific differences in the way it is watched, fascinate me, although I'm a pretty milquetoast spectator in-person and totally unprepared to learn a chant for Aaron Miles. But I'm cautious about possibly America-bound Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who's been posted by the Chiba Lotte Marines following a season in which he hit .346.
In a lot of ways he's a perfect fit for a team with generalized infield problems; just 26, he's got the range of a shortstop and the arm-strength of a second baseman, which would leave the Cardinals flexible when it came time to figure out which disappointing homegrown infielder to send to the bench. He led the Pacific League in errors last season, so a Ryan/Nishioka keystone combination would give us plenty of chances to vent our frustration when Jeff Gordon cites fielding percentage in some mid-May P-D chat. An outstanding baserunner, he's coming off a season in which he hit .346/.423/.482.
But that's his career year, and it's his career year by a long way. Beset by nagging injuries since becoming a starter at age 21, he's slugged over .430 twice, and outside of last season has a career average under .300. I'll be interested to see how he pans out in the Major Leagues, because while his career line looks something like the ones Major League teams saw from previous imports like Kaz Matsui, Akinori Iwamura, and Tad Iguchi, those other infielders came from Japan with incredibly gaudy power numbers. Nishioka is the slap-hitting middle infielder to come out of Japan already a slap-hitter.
That might translate better, for all I know, but unless other teams are more frightened by his .395 BAbip than I expect them to be I don't think the Cardinals will get into the bidding war.