Yadier Molina Sulks and the Validity of Gold Gloves
The 2020 Gold Glove Award nominations are out. Congratulations to many Cubs, particularly Willson Contreras, who earned his first nomination. Other Cubs include Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Kyle Hendricks, Alec Mills, Nico Hoerner, and Javier Baez.
Missing from the list was one Yadier Molina, notorious diaper filler. Here's his tantrum of a reaction:
Here's the thing about the Gold Gloves: They aren't always the most telling of who's deserving. Much like the Oscars are to cinema, the Gold Gloves often reward people based off past successes rather than the present. And they have made plenty of baffling mistakes over the years. My favorite of which is Rafael Palmiero in 1999, who won the Gold Glove at first base despite playing 128 games as a DH, and only 25 at first. He also won it in 1997 and 1998, playing a lot more first base then.
The point is, take Gold Glove wins with a grain of salt. They are often somewhat accurate, but not spot on. Much like how the Oscars pick a good movie, but not the best nearly every year. To a degree, it's a popularity contest. In my opinion, they shouldn't be treated as prestigious as they are. I'll explain that opinion by examining the career of Yadier Molina.
Yadier Molina has earned 9 Gold Gloves in his career. 3rd all time behind Ivan Rodriguez at 13, and Johnny Bench at 10. It's impressive. He's had a long standing reputation as a fine defensive catcher. Today, I'll look at the stats to see if that reputation is valid, or if it's more hearsay.
Fangraphs has a handy DEF stat. It's their own proprietary "Defensive Runs Above Average," which measures a players defensive value relative to league average. League average is set to 0, and players can either be positive or negative. 9-10 is roughly equal to 1 win of value. Fangraphs takes into account UZR and DRS, then adds in positional adjustments so you can compare players across different positions. DEF then factors into their WAR calculations as well. It doesn't take into account pitch framing, handling pitchers, or general TWTW. This DEF stat is what I'll be using to measure Molina against his competition.
Here's a chart of Molina's annual DEF numbers. The ranks are based off catchers with 300 innings, including the shortened 2020. Gold highlighted years are Gold Glove winner years for Yadier. By including his rank as well as his score, it should give you a feel for what the competition was like every year. The rankings are all of MLB, not league specific. Getting technical, a rank of 6th or higher should be enough for a nominee (3 noms per league, assuming one league doesn't lap the other), and finishing 3rd or higher should be good enough for an award winner.
Looking through this list, I'd argue that Yadier Molina deserves 6 Gold Gloves instead of 9. His 2007 was good enough to be a winner. In 2008-2010, he deserved to win as well. In 2011, his 6th rank and -13 DEF from the leader makes him unworthy. I'd give him Gold Gloves for 2012 and 2013, for being in the top 3 and close to the leader. But since 2014, he hasn't deserved to win, and it's a 50/50 that he even got nominated.
Going by the rankings, I'd give him an additional Gold Glove for 2007, but then take away Awards in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2018. His 9 Gold Gloves becomes 6. Six Gold Gloves bumps him from 3rd to a tie for 4th (Bob Boone has 7 and Jim Sundberg has 6).
Arguably, Yadier's preceding reputation gave him Gold Glove Awards 3 times, basically every win he's had since 2014. His 2018 award win is a joke. Jumping to this year, I think one could argue that he could squeak in as a nominee, but he doesn't deserve a win. His whole argument about being worthy and equal with Bench just doesn't hold a lot of water.
Because of his tantrum, I creatived a video that shows you how he was acting. Enjoy!