Arizona’s defense was certainly improved in 2019. By Fangraph’s Def metric, Arizona were second-best in the majors and best in the National League. Their +41.2 score trailed just the Athletic (+42.9) and was sharply up on the previous seasons’ figure of +15.7. Whether a result or not, the Diamondbacks did very well, when nominations for the Gold Gloves were announced earlier today. They placed five men on the list - though this includes a man who is actually listed on the American League side. That number is up from three last year, and one of those is no longer with the team (Jon Jay inexplicably receiving a nod in right-field, because... Well, I still haven’t figured that out).
Pitcher: Zack Greinke
Zack may now be with the Astros, but qualified for consideration in the National League. Even with a shortened season here, being dealt at the trade deadline, it would be no surprise if he took it home again. If he did, it would be his sixth Gold Glove in a row; only Bob Gibson (9 consecutive seasons) and Greg Maddux (13) have more in the NL. Though Greinke did apparently commit an error in the field this year, after posting perfect seasons in both 2017 and 2018. The other potential candidates are Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals, and Aaron Nola from Philadelphia.
First-base: Christian Walker
Well, this was probably a bit unexpected - especially to the people who spent much of 2019 telling us that Walker’s defense was nowhere near as good as the man he replaced. Walker will be going up against Paul Goldschmidt, who returns to the nominations as a Cardinal, after taking 2018 off, and also reigning (co-) champion, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs. But this simply reflects the metrics, with the trio being the top three (min. 1000 innings) in UZR per 150 games. Walker actually edged Goldschmidt there, though the latter did have almost two hundred more innings at the position.
Shortstop: Nick Ahmed
No great surprise to see the 2018 winner back in the frame again, though the numbers here differ markedly in their assessment. UZR has Ahmed only sixth among shortstops in the NL, but on Baseball Reference, Rdrs and Rtot rank him first and equal-first respectively. I do note that his errors increased this year from 9 to 13, and he was involved in fewer double-plays. But it’s hard to tell how much defensive shifting plays into these numbers. The Rockies’ Trevor Story may be Nick’s biggest threat, although the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong, also nominated, is the UZR leader for 2019.
Left-field: David Peralta
I was surprised, though my opinion of Peralta’s fielding is likely colored by plays like this one. That was a couple of years ago, and let’s not forget, he is a converted pitcher, so a learning curve is to be expected. But this was still unexpected, especially considering how much time he missed, barely passing eight hundred innings in left this year. Mind you, that’s still rather more than co-finalist Hunter Renfroe, who notched just 478.1 innings there: 65 starts and only 31 complete games. The third nominee, Juan Soto seems to be there purely due to volume, having played 170 more frames there than anyone else in the league.
Pitcher (AL): Mike Leake
This is the “maybe five” entry, Leake being nominated for his pre-deadline work with the Mariners, in much the same way as Greinke is nominated with the D-backs. But I thought the American League didn’t let their pitchers do anything except pitch? Y’know, because they suck at everything else and might get hurt if called upon to move suddenly in an unexpected direction? Besides, who watches baseball games to see pitchers pick up a rolling ball and throw it over to first-base?
The winners in both leagues will be announced on November 3.