Congratulations to the man who really does climb Tal’s Hill everyday, Michael Bourn, who just won his second consecutive Gold Glove award. The NL announced the award winners today, November 10th. The American League announced their winners yesterday. Between the two leagues, Bourn is one of the few really good choices. Of all NL center fielders with at least 100 games at the position, Bourn ranked second in RF/G (range factor per game) behind Arizona’s Chris Young. The Astros speedster also ranked second in fielding % for anyone who played more than 120 games in center field. The only man to beat him in that category was Shane Victorino, who also won a Gold Glove (his third straight).
I’m not a huge fan of fielding % and errors as primary defensive evaluations though they certainly have value when placed in the entire spectrum. If you look at more advanced statistics, the case for Bourn only gets stronger as he ranked first (by far) in runs above average based on plays made. Bourn finished the season at +23. Second was Angel Pagan at +16. In comparison, Victorino was 4th at +12 and Chris Young was 5th at +7. Bourn also ranked 1st in defensive runs saved, with 16. Victorino, Young, and Tony Gwynn Jr. tied for second with 11 apiece. Overall, Michael Bourn was easily among the very best outfielders in 2010.
Stats are wonderful equalizers and one of my favorite things to look at and analyze but they don’t tell the whole story. Especially when it comes to fielding. With fielding, sometimes the most important evidence for or against a player is the eye test. You have to watch a player over the course of many games to really evaluate his skill in the field. Derek Jeter may have only made 6 errors at shortstop this season but no one who’s watched him play would call him a great defender. Bourn on the other hand, can dazzle you with a play just about any night you tune into an Astros game. Michael Bourn plays 81 games a year in maybe the toughest center field in the NL. Yes, due to this site’s namesake, Tal’s Hill. For a decade, Andruw Jones was the best center fielder in baseball without much competition. Remember when he fell while climbing the hill? Bourn makes center field in Minute Maid look like child’s play. 2010 Gold Glovers include the usual grab bag of terrible picks we as baseball fans have come to expect. But this is one the voters got right.