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Gold Glove D-backs Finalists: Utility, Daulton Varsho

Uncharted territory...

MLB: MAY 16 Diamondbacks at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The candidates

  • Daulton Varsho, ARI
  • Brendan Donovan, STL
  • Tommy Edman, STL

This one is going to be very interesting, and I have basically no clue. It’s the first time there has been such a category, so there’s no incumbent, and we have no previous history on which to go. According to the official press release, there will be no voting from coaches involved in the decision. “To determine the utility Award winners, Rawlings collaborated with SABR to create a specialized defensive formula separate from the traditional selection process for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award position winners. Utilizing the SABR formula and additional defensive statistics, Rawlings will select one utility winner from each League” That is all we know i.e. very little.

The real issue is, how do you compare defense across such radically different skill-sets? Here’s a breakdown of where the three candidates appeared in 2022:

  • Varsho: RF 71, CF 54, C 31
  • Donovan: 2B 38, 3B 31, RF 20, LF 19, 1B 16, SS 7
  • Edman: 2B 89, SS 80, 3B 8, RF 2, CF 1

Varsho is the only major-league player for 20 seasons to have 30+ games at both center and catcher in the same year - and he has done it in consecutive campaigns. The last before was Eli Marrero of the 2002 Cardinals: it’s basically a unique skill-set. You have to admire Donovan’s flexibility, but it is less rare. As recently as 2019, three different players had 5+ appearances at the same six spots as Donovan, including Brandon Drury (then a Blue Jay). But at least the purely sabermetric decision counters him being a rookie which, as noted for Alek Thomas, makes it hard to win a Gold Glove. It also means he isn’t competing with his teammate and “splitting the vote”. The same goes for Varsho’s presence in two categories.

The numbers

As mentioned above, these are the only things that matter, with there being no voting for this award. The problem is, we do not know what numbers factor into the award. I think it’s safe to presume that old-school metrics like fielding percentage won’t be considered, because these can’t be compared across positions. A F% which would be excellent at third-base, where the MLB average is .964, would be disastrous for a center fielder, with its .991 F%. Then there’s catcher, which has numbers such as caught stealing percentage and framing, that just don’t exist for other positions.

I’m not even certain how valid the advanced metrics are at being combined across positions. That’s especially true in a world where defensive shifts frequently have players operating in radically different positions from there they “should” be. We also have the problem that, as with the standard measurements, many of them simply are not available for catcher: UZR and OAA are not calculated. With that spot being a significant component of Varsho’s defensive abilities this year (if not, perhaps, going forward), we have to ignore many of the tools we used to compare the candidates at other positions.

Virtually all we have as a combined metric is rDRS and its rate-based figure. rDRS/yr. By this, we get +16/+17 for Varsho; +9/+12 for Donovan, and +19/+19 for Edman. Are these the numbers which will be used to determine the Gold Glove recipient? Absolutely no idea. If so, Edman would appear to be a slight favorite over Varsho, with Donovan some distance back. We will just have to wait and see what transpires!

Let’s go to the tape

We already covered the best plays Varsho made in right, when we discussed his credentials at that position. So for this highlight reel, let’s limit ourselves to the web gems he delivered at other spots in 2022.

It would definitely be very cool if Varsho was to become the first man ever to win TWO Gold Gloves in the same season. The mere fact he was nominated at right speaks highly of his defense there: though Edman was nominated at second base too, so the same goes for him! Personally, I feel this is the most intriguing category, simply because it’s never been awarded before: this year will break new ground. Does Daulton have a chance?


Who will win the NL Gold Glove for utility players?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    Daulton Varsho
    (40 votes)
  • 10%
    Brendan Donovan
    (5 votes)
  • 4%
    Tommy Edman
    (2 votes)
47 votes total Vote Now