Gold in the Rockies: Arenado, LeMahieu honored for gloves
DENVER -- The Rockies' Nolan Arenado, who established himself as one of the top defensive third basemen in the Majors, earned his second straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award and second baseman DJ LeMahieu earned his first on Tuesday night.
This season marks the fifth time in Rockies history that the club has been awarded with multiple Gold Gloves. The team had a chance at three, but first baseman Justin Morneau, who led NL players at his position in fielding percentage, lost out to the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez.
Arenado, 23, who became the first rookie third baseman in NL history to take the trophy last year, is the only third baseman in club history to win the award. LeMahieu became the first Rockies second baseman to win it.
Arenado becomes the Rockies' fifth multiple Gold Glove winner. He joined outfielder Larry Walker, who had five (1997-99, 2001-02); first baseman Todd Helton (2001-02, 2004) and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (2010, 2012-13), who have three apiece; and shortstop Troy Tulowitkzi, who has won twice (2010-11). Tulowitzki could have challenged two-time winner Andrelton Simmons of the Braves, but he missed much of the year with a left hip injury.
"I'm not trying to sound greedy or anything, but this year's Gold Glove kind of hit me a little harder than it did last year," Arenado said. "Last year, I was kind of in shock. When you've won one year, the goal is to keep it and the goal is to always make your plays and help your pitchers out. I took a lot of pride.
"Whenever I made errors this year, it hurt me more than it did last year. It means a lot, winning this award."
The defensive work of LeMahieu was recognized last year, when he was awarded with the Rockies' Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award. LeMahieu's award, along with Arenado's, Morneau's nomination and Tulowitzki's quality before he was hurt all are evidence backing the Rockies' preseason assertion that they had the best infield in the Majors.
"We do have the best infield," LeMahieu said. "Obviously, Nolan and Tulo are two of the best in the game and you have Morneau, who got nominated and who I really don't think could have played any better first base than he did this year."
Arenado said the strong showing in defensive awards is evidence that the Rockies have more talent than their 66-96 record showed during an injury-riddled 2014.
"It would have been pretty crazy if Morney would have won; it would have meant all of us in the infield would have Gold Gloves," Arenado said. "It just shows that our team is not that far from being a contender. We're right there. There are a couple pieces we have and a couple of pieces we've got to get, then we'll be all right."
The award was somewhat expected for Arenado, even though injuries limited him to 111 games, because of his highlight-level performances when he was on the field and the power of incumbency, with three-fourths of the voting system based on votes of managers and coaches and the other quarter based on a sabermetric formula.
Arenado led the league's third basemen in range factor per game (3.14), according to the Baseball-Reference.com. He also finished second in double plays participated in with 31 and third in assists with 280 -- this despite the fact he missed 35 midseason games with a fractured left middle finger, and didn't play in the final days of the season because of a bout with pneumonia.
Arenado became the fifth Major League player to win the award in at least his first two seasons, behind third baseman Frank Malzone (1957-59), who was the first Major League rookie to win it while playing for the Red Sox; catcher Johnny Bench, who took 10 straight for the Reds (1968-77); catcher Charles Johnson, who earned four for the Marlins and Dodgers (1995-98) and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who won 10 straight for the Mariners (2001-10).
The defensive work of LeMahieu was recognized last year, when he was awarded with the Rockies' Defensive Player of the Year award. LeMahieu, 26, also became a regular on highlight reels this season. He beat out the Reds' Brandon Phillips, who won four of the previous six Gold Gloves at second base.
Phillies veteran second baseman Chase Utley also was a nominee. The pedigree of the competition had LeMahieu not necessarily expecting to be elected. But plays like one on July 2 at Washington -- when LeMahieu made a diving grab of an Anthony Rendon grounder behind second base and made a glove flip to Tulowitzki, who made a barehand catch and throw for the double play -- helped solidify LeMahieu's reputation.
"That was definitely the best play of the year," LeMahieu said. "That was both of us knowing how each other reacts, how we interact together, how we play together. That was definitely the most fun play of the year.
"I played every day, and wanted to be a good teammate, play for my teammates. To be recognized by the rest of the league for doing that, that's really cool."
LeMahieu led NL second basemen in defensive runs saved with 16, range factor at second base with (5.11) according to Baseball-Reference.com and double plays with 99. LeMahieu was second in assists with 413.