It is not a hot take to suggest that Houston Astro Carlos Correa was robbed of a Gold Glove at shortstop last season, losing out to J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners. Due to the pandemic-shortened season, teams were limited to a regional schedule.
It didn’t seem fair to let coaches and players vote in that instance. So, winners were determined purely on an analytics-driven decision. Specifically, winners were selected using the SABR Defensive Index.
A recent Baseball America poll has managers doubting Carlos Correa’s defense.
With players and coaches back to voting this season, one would believe the eye-test as an accurate measure of Correa’s chances at a Gold Glove award at shortstop. However, Baseball America came out with their annual MLB Best Tools of 2021 that casts some doubt on how the league perceives the right-hander defensively.
Each year, Baseball America polls major-league managers, coaches, analysts and scouts to rank their top three players in a number of categories. The poll has been around for a long time. However, there isn’t a ton of information on how many baseball people they are polling, responding to, or really any other data supporting the rankings.
Correa was not ranked in the top-three “Best Defensive Shortstop.” He was ranked number two of three in “Best Infield Arm” behind perennial Platinum Glover, Matt Chapman. That feels appropriate given the numerous plays we’ve seen Chapman make against the Astros year after year.
Yet, it’s the omission at “Best Defensive Shortstop” that raises the eyebrow of many fans. Frankly, it’s hard for anyone to argue the nuance of this list, as this seems to be the subjective opinion of an unknown amount of MLB people. What we do have access to is many traditional and advanced metrics to see where Correa stands amongst his peers.
According to FanGraphs, amongst qualified shortstops in the American League, Correa is currently ranked fifth in innings played, fielding percentage, and Assists. He’s tied for fourth in fewest errors.
Under more modern, advanced metric rankings, Correa is tied for first in defensive runs saved and double play runs saved runs above average, second in plus/minus runs saved runs above average, and fifth in defensive runs above average. You can see a trend here: Correa is showing up almost every single metric measuring defense.
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While Nicky Lopez, Andrelton Simmons and J.P. Crawford are having solid defensive seasons at the shortstop position this season, none of them show up in the leader boards in traditional or advanced metrics as frequently as Correa. Only Isiah Kiner-Falefa shows up as frequently as Correa, both gentleman being tied for first place in Defense WAR amongst all fielders in the American League.
Correa has certainly has made his fair share of plays this season. For a good portion of the summer, the right-hander endured an offensive slump. Yet, he never let that interfere with his defensive work on the diamond, quite literally putting on a defensive clinic almost every night.
While he might not be diving all over the place, Correa navigates his large framed body between third and second with agility and poise. He uses his mind for the game to determine best positioning, understand runner speed, and the overall game situation. And, of course, his elite elite arm strength is the cherry on top of his defensive sundae.
Correa will look to create separation amongst his fellow shortstops in the AL in this final stretch of games in September. As Correa vies for his first Gold Glove (the first Gold Glove for an Astros shortstop since Roger Metzger in 1973), the Astros will face off in game two of a three game series against the Mariners at 9:10 p.m. on Tuesday, as Lance McCullers Jr. counters lefty Yusei Kikuchi.
Correa will put his magical work at shortstop head-to-head with the great things J.P. Crawford brings to the position. It should be a fun series to compare and contrast, after the Astros took game one.