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