Chicago Cubs: It is time Javier Baez won the Gold Glove

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs have had the best middle infielder in the National League league, if not all of baseball, for years. It’s time Javier Baez won a Gold Glove.

I know this year’s Gold Glove winners were announced last week, but I still can’t get over how voting shook out. Javier Baez, somehow, wasn’t even a finalist among National League shortstops. The Chicago Cubs star isn’t just the slickest fielding shortstop since Ozzie Smith.  El Mago did something you see maybe once in a generation. He changed the way the game is played.

Before Baez burst onto the scene during the 2015 postseason, infielders mostly utilized the swipe tag.  It certainly looked good, a kind of ole’ flash of the leather to tag a runner.

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Then along came Baez.  His glove work was little noticed at first, namely because people were more focused on his prodigious power and out of his shoes swing.  But Joe Maddon noticed.  He was talking up Baez’s tagging ability right off the bat, pardon the pun.

It all came to light on October 11, 2016. Sure, there was Matt Vasgersian’s breathlessly excitable description in the 2016 NLDS on this play but it was this play after one out that brought the new tag to the public’s attention.  Infielders from Little League to the Show have been adopting it ever since.

Who does that? Who reinvents the way entire generations of players have been taught to play and changes the way the game will be played going forward?  But, that’s not how Gold Gloves are decided.

It’s all about the metrics

The three finalists for the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove award were very good shortstops in their own right. I’m taking nothing away from them.

Runner-up Trevor Story posted a 10.3 UZR-150 in 2019 with a .987 fielding percentage. In nearly 1,260 innings played, Story was worth 8.6 fielding runs above average and 17 defensive runs saved.  He made just eight errors all season.

The other runner-up, Paul DeJong, earned a 9.6 UZR-150 rating with a .989 fielding percentage. In nearly 1,375 innings played he was worth 14 defensive runs saved and an 11.4 fielding runs above average, making just seven errors.

2019 Gold Glove winner Nick Ahmed posted just a 2.3 UZR-150 and .979 fielding percentage and had 13 errors. But he was worth 18 defensive runs saved.  It was that stat that most likely put him over the top.

Baez by comparison in 2019?  He was worth 15 defensive runs saved and earned a 10.6 fielding run above average. The Puerto Rican standout posted a respectable 9.6 UZR-150, right up there with Story and DeJong. But his .973 fielding percentage and 15 errors, including 12 throwing errors, ranked below the three finalists and that likely cost him a shot at the title.

I have no doubt that Javy is out to prove he’s Gold Glove material. His defensive play improved as he settled in at shortstop and if the Cubs decide on a regular second baseman his play will improve even further.  Last year the Cubs paired their shortstop position with seven different players at second (Addison Russell, Daniel Descalso, Robel Garcia, David Bote, Tony Kemp, Ben Zobrist, and Ian Happ) seriously disrupting their overall middle infield defense, which had been a strength.

Next. Cubs should give Bote the second base job in 2020. dark

Despite all the disruption, Baez was likely very close to being a Gold Glove finalist in 2019.  That next step is coming, and 2020 is the year we see the most dynamic player in a generation get his Gold Glove.  After all, when you make plays that are “barely humanly possible” you are, “some kind of special defender” and that makes a Gold Glove almost inevitable.

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