Earlier this winter it was announced that Carl Crawford won the 2009 Fielding Bible Award as baseball’s best defensive left fielder for the third time in four years. This is John Dewan’s summation of Crawford’s award from The Bill James Handbook

He’s baaack! Again. Crawford wins his third award. The only year of our four that he didn’t win was two years ago (2007), when he came in a close second to Eric Byrnes. This year was no contest. No player has ever won with a perfect record (10 first place votes from 10 panelists), but Carl came as close as possible with nine first places and one second. That’s 99 points. (The best previously was 98 points by Adam Everett at shortstop in 2006.) If Crawford doesn’t win his first Gold Glove this year, I’m going to throw up.

Gold Gloves for outfielders in each league are given to the three best defensive outfielders no matter which outfield position they play. Most often the awards go to three center fielders as CF is deemed a far more important position.

In Bill James’ defensive spectrum, LF is ranked ahead of only 1B and DH in terms of difficulty, while CF ranks behind only C, SS and 2B. So it makes sense that the best defenders will play CF. Of the remaining outfielders, those with the best arms will go to RF and whatever is left over plays LF. “Leftovers” is what Crawford is competing against in the “Fielding Bible Awards.”

This is not a knock on Crawford. We love Crawford. He is a great defensive left fielder*. And he probably is the best defensive left fielder in baseball. But being the best defensive left fielder is akin to being named the MVP of the 2002 Devil Rays or winning the “Best Looking Pug” award. It is a matter of perspective.

So where does CC rank among all outfielders? According to UZR, Crawford (17.6) was the third best defensive outfielder in the AL last year, behind only Franklin Guitierrez and Ryan Sweeney. Does this mean Crawford was one of the best defensive outfielders in the AL in 2009? Maybe. Maybe not.  BJ Upton was 6th with an 8.2 UZR. Anybody think Crawford is twice as good as Upton defensively? We don’t.

So, until they start giving Gold Gloves specifically to left fielders, Crawford is at best, a borderline Gold Glover. Failing to give him a Gold Glove would not be the biggest slight in the history of baseball awards.

We suggest that Dewan not eat too much on the day the Gold Gloves are announced in November.

* Crawford is a great defender from bat to glove. He still has a terrible throwing arm, although it has gotten better

 
 

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    There’s significant evidence to suggest that when corner outfielders move to center field, their UZR goes down by 10, and that when center fielders go to corners, their UZR goes up by 10.
    So, this year CC’s defense was 6th of all outfielders.

  2. Gus says:

    CC is a great outfielder, but honestly he was better in 2005-2007 time frame. Not quite as quick anymore.

    Upton would be a gold glover except for all the balls that got hit over his head in early 2009. I know that is Merlot Joe’s fault and they eventually positioned him correctly, but Rays still had too many balls that should be outs become extra base hits.

    Combined, they are the most fun outfield to watch in the majors, no matter who is in RF. Enjoy them now while you have the chance.

  3. Don says:

    “Does anyone think CC is twice as good Upton defensively….?”
    NOT ME…I think HE is 10 times better than UPTON!!!
    I can think of at least 10 times balls were hit over Upton’s head..
    You know how hard it is to hit a fly ball… and fall between the outfielder and the fence even in CF….Impossible…but not with Upton…
    Guarantee there was not one hit over CC’s head that did not go off the wall or out! The other misjudged, or balls falling in front of Upton are many……Watch the games.. and these stupid posts are not possible!

    • Justin H says:

      B.J. Upton had a 11.8 UZR last season (according to Fangraphs) so I hardly say CC is 10 times better than that. As for balls hit over his head Upton plays a very shallow center field which can allow for balls to get over his head. He does though take away many hits that would fall for singles so I don’t know what you’re talking about with balls falling in front of Upton. I do agree in a sense with badly judged balls for Upton, the one I remember best was in Chicago where he misjudged a ball that went over his head and lost us that game. Crawford has a 17.6 UZR in left field which is a much smaller zone. I think they are both above average defenders and two of the best defenders in baseball at there respective positions. Center field and left field are two different animals and it is very hard to judge them against each other. Just don’t say that Upton is a bad defender because he’s clearly not.

      • Don says:

        Nobody said Upton was a “bad” defender..maybe “stupid” would be better..
        Miss judged balls and playing “shallow” (out of position) would qualify him for this title ..but to even hint he is as good as CC is preposterous!

        • Justin H says:

          Disagree, Upton plays shallow obviously because the team wants him too and Upton has a much better arm than Crawford which I think is very important to his defense.

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