That headline is not a misprint. I am not sure if the term “Gold Glove” and “Alfonso Soriano” have ever been used in the same sentence before, maybe only as the punchline of a joke. However, Alfonso Soriano has played in 84 games and is yet to make an error. Soriano has led the league in errors the last three years and is considered by many to be a liability in the field. That is no longer true, at least not this year.
The obvious fact is that Soriano has not made an error all season, but that does not necessarily make him a Gold Glover. The league has changed the rules this year to make a Gold Glove for each outfield position, rather than the top three outfielders over all. This means tat the competition for Soriano is less than what it would have been in years past.
Last year’s winner, Gerrardo Parra, has not even played enough innings this year to qualify for a Gold Glove. That is one main competitor gone, but who does that leave? Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants is a candidate, but he has made four errors already this season and seems almost out of contention now. Next would be Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. He has already made five errors and that takes him almost completely out of the running. Who does that leave? Jason Kubel, of the Diamondbacks, has only made one error and has ten outfield assists, giving him a decent shot; but he has a UZR of -0.9, according to Fangraphs.com. UZR, or Ultimate Rating Zone, is the measure of how many runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined, according to Fangraphs.com. Carlos Gonzalez of the Rokcies is another highly regarded left fielder. He has made two errors this year and has an NL-worst -9.1 UZR, according to Fangraphs.com. The highest UZR in the NL is: Alfonso Soriano. He has a UZR of +10.7, which means he has saved the Cubs almost 11 runs in the 2012 season. Soriano has had 154 putouts this year, which puts him in the middle of the pack for NL left fielders. That means that the ball has been hit to him and he has just made the plays. After looking around the league, Soriano seems to be the best choice for a Gold Glove if the season ended today.
Alfonso Soriano has been one of the worst fielders in all of baseball for a long time, so what changed? Soriano has been working his tail off with outfield coach Dave McKay. McKay is obviously doing something right because Soriano has never been known for his defense, but now is a legitimate Gold Glove candidate.
Some of Soriano’s other stats are easy to overlook, but have still been important. He has five outfield assists, which is middle of the pack, and has two double plays started. This year seems to be a down year for defensive left fielders, which makes this more and more likely. Soriano has had average range for a left fielder, despite his bad knee. It seems as if almost overnight Soriano has gone from a defensive liability to a potential Gold Glover.
These stats and comparisons should prove to anyone that this is not a joke. He can win a Gold Glove this year. If Darwin Barney continues his play, then that would probably give the Cubs two Gold Gloves. That would be the first time that has happened since 1992, when Greg Maddux and Mark Grace did it.