O's, Royals lead pack of Gold Glove winners
Eight first-timers among winners; Baltimore and KC take home three each
The Orioles' historic defensive season, in which they committed a Major League record-low 54 errors, culminated with an impressive showing in Tuesday night's unveiling of the 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners.
Third baseman Manny Machado, shortstop J.J. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones each took home baseball's most coveted defensive hardware, as the Orioles became the first club since the 2003-04 Cardinals with at least three Gold Glove Award winners in consecutive seasons.
This year's winners -- announced in a one-hour special on ESPN2 -- featured a solid mix of the next generation of defenders and the old guard.
The eight first-time winners included a pair of young stars in Machado and Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who had incredible seasons both aesthetically and sabermetrically. Meanwhile, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado became just the 10th rookie in history to take home the award and the first since Ichiro Suzuki did so in 2001.
As for the veterans, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina took home his sixth Gold Glove, moving into a tie for fourth place in history among backstops. Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips and Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino both notched their fourth.
The Kansas City Royals were the only other club with three winners on Tuesday night, as catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer and left fielder Alex Gordon each won an award. Hosmer and Perez were first-time winners, while Gordon notched his third straight.
"It's a tremendous honor to be in such an elite league with the best competitors all over the planet," Hosmer said. "Really, to win any type of award, especially the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, is a tremendous honor. I'm very excited about the award, and I couldn't thank all my teammates enough and the infield around me for --everyone -- doing their part and me being able to get this award."
Until the 2013 season, the Gold Glove Awards had been decided by voting among Major League managers and coaches. This year, however, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) collaborated with Rawlings to formally incorporate sabermetrics as a component.
According to Rawlings and SABR, a committee of experts in baseball analytics devised a SABR Defensive Index (SDI) that was to account for 30 votes -- about 25 percent of the total.
Both World Series clubs boast a pair of Gold Glove Award winners this year. Along with Victorino, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia earned his third overall.
Meanwhile, Molina's total of six is the most for any of this year's winners. Despite his incredible six-year run, Molina would still need seven more to equal Ivan Rodriguez for the most in history by a catcher.
"I think you will notice that every catcher has one or two holes," his brother and Cardinals assistant hitting coach Bengie Molina said recently. "They may not have a good arm throwing, they may not get down to the ball blocking so good, another guy doesn't catch the ball well because he's slow with his mitt. There are holes in catchers, just like there is with a hitter. But what I see from him is that he doesn't have any holes. That's what makes him the best."
Molina equaled Rodriguez in at least one other category. When Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright took home his second Gold Glove, Molina and Wainwright became just the second battery in history to win the award twice, and the first to do so with the same team. (Rodriguez and left-hander Kenny Rogers won Gold Glove Awards with the Rangers in 2000 and the Tigers in '06.)
Arizona and Colorado round out the clubs with multiple winners. For the D-backs, right fielder Gerardo Parra won his second Gold Glove Award, and National League Most Valuable Player Award candidate Paul Goldschmidt notched his first. For the Rockies, Arenado became the first rookie third baseman to win the honor since Boston's Frank Malzone won in 1957 -- the first year of voting. Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez earned his third.
"It's awesome, man," Arenado said on Tuesday night. "I can't believe it. It's pretty crazy thinking about it, and it's such an honor. My teammates, coaches -- they have all helped me get this, and I can't thank them enough for it, and most of all, God for blessing me and putting me in this position."
Goldschmidt was also humbled to be named a winner.
"It's just a huge honor to get recognized," Goldschmidt said. "There are so many great players around the league, and I'm just very fortunate to be in the position just to get to play. To be honored with this award is pretty cool."
It was a different CarGo stealing headlines in Milwaukee, where Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez became the first Milwaukee player to earn a Gold Glove Award since Robin Yount won as a shortstop in 1982.
"That made me feel more excited and proud of myself," Gomez said. "I give something to the organization, to the Milwaukee Brewers, that they didn't have for  years. This is the organization that [made] me the player that I am right now."
In a bit of a surprise, the Tampa Bay Rays -- with their .990 fielding percentage and total of 59 errors, both the Majors' second best -- were shut out on Tuesday night. The entire Rays infield of James Loney, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Yunel Escobar was among the finalists at each position announced last week.
In what was arguably the most hotly contested race in the NL, Phillips won out over Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney. Last season's winner, Barney boasted a slightly better fielding percentage and defensive WAR this year, but Phillips' flair for the dramatic and his ability to make the spectacular seem routine won out in the end.
Over at shortstop, Simmons was a much easier choice. The 24-year-old with the rocket arm and the lighting-quick hands boasts all the numbers to back up the flair. His dWAR of 5.4, according to baseball-reference.com, led the Majors, and his 24.6 UZR (ultimate zone rating, according to FanGraphs) was nearly triple that of his nearest competitor at shortstop.
"It's an honor," Simmons said on ESPN2's broadcast. "I've always been praised growing up, but to do it in the biggest stage, it's the biggest of honors. ... I never thought I would play on the same stage as [idols Derek Jeter and Omar Vizquel] together, so that was fun playing against them last year."
In the American League, it was Machado putting up the absurd defensive splits. He led all of MLB with his 31.2 UZR, and he led the Junior Circuit with 4.4 dWAR.
Machado's incredible season spoiled Adrian Beltre's quest for a fifth and a third straight. Beltre was one of eight 2012 winners to be named finalists in 2013 but not win an award. Barney, A's right fielder Josh Reddick and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen were among the notables who were denied a repeat.
Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle was denied a fifth straight award by his own teammate, R.A. Dickey, who notched his first Gold Glove Award at the ripe age of 39.