If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and try to project what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.
On the third day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, THREE Gold Glove Awards…
In 2008 Carlos Pena became the first player in franchise history to win a Gold Glove award. With a team that is now on baseball’s front burner and no fewer than seven players that are at, or near the top of defensive players at their position, we want those abilities to be recognized and for three Rays to win Gold Gloves in 2009.
DEFENSE IS THE RAYS’ “MONEYBALL”: Since the book “Moneyball” was released in 2003, the term “Moneyball player” has evolved to mean something different than originally intended. Today, the casual baseball fan refers to a “Moneyball player” as one with a high on-base percentage. The true meaning is something different.
At the time “Moneyball” was written, Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane had identified players that were undervalued by other teams. It just so happened that the metric used at the time was players with high OBPs. Fast-forward six years and everybody recognizes the importance of players that get on base and it is much harder to find a bargain in that market.
Still, the concept behind “Moneyball” is as strong as ever, and it is something Stuart Sternberg and Co. thrived at long before they took over the front office of the Tampa Bay Rays: Identify something that is undervalued by others. In this case, the Rays “Moneyball” trait is defense. The Rays recognized early on that a good defensive player can save runs in the same manner that a good offensive player can produce them.
And in this case, defense may be a better “Moneyball” statistic than even OBP since defense is less susceptible to small sample sizes. Failure is the norm for a hitter. A player with a great on-base percentage still “fails” at least 60% of the time and that includes a lot of variance over short stretches. On the other hand a good defensive player is much less likely to deviate from their norm over a short stretch.
THE RAYS TARGET GOOD DEFENDERS FOR THE ROSTER: A quick look at all the position players on the 25-man roster that were acquired since Sternberg and Co. took over, shows that in almost every case, the player is a plus-defender. That list includes Evan Longoria, Aki Iwamura, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Dioner Navarro, Willy Aybar and Gabe Gross. Even a couple of acquisitions that have not stuck with the big club, Joel Guzman (now a minor league free agent) and Justin Ruggiano are solid defensive players.
Even the Rays latest acquisition is a good defender. While nobody foresaw the acquisition of Matt Joyce from the Tigers for Edwin Jackson, the move should not have come as a surprise. Joyce fits perfectly into the mold established by the front office. He is young, cheap, above-average with the bat and very good defensively. Once Joyce becomes the Rays’ everyday right fielder, joining Carl Crawford and BJ Upton, the Rays will have the best defensive outfield in baseball, and one that can hold it’s own offensively.
IT IS TIME FOR THE RAYS TO BE RECOGNIZED AS BEST DEFENSIVE TEAM IN BASEBALL: We have seen a better recognition by baseball writers towards the importance of good defense and how that can help a team like the Rays to the World Series. And while the Gold Glove is a flawed award, it is often based on the perceptions of the baseball writing community. And those writers now have access to better evaluations of defensive ability.
With more eyes on the Rays in 2009 and the recognition of just how good they are defensively, it is time that the writers acknowledge that recognition with multiple Gold Glove awards. While Pena is a good choice to repeat at first base, Jason Bartlett, Aki Iwamura, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Dioner Navarro and BJ Upton may also deserve consideration.
In the 2009 edition of “The Bill James Handbook” Crawford won The Fielding Bible Award for left fielders and Pena, Longoria and Navarro all finished in the top 7 at their respective positions. Bartlett, who battled multiple injuries in 2008 should return to his 2007 form as one of the better defensive shortstops in baseball. And despite playing relatively new positions, Iwamura and Upton will start to be recognized for their work.
On the third day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is THREE Gold Glove awards, and…
TWO months in triple-A for David Price [Day 2]
ONE impact bat with a bow on top [Day 1]