Cubs News: Javier Baez a 2020 Gold Glove after a near-miss last year

Javier Baez - (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Javier Baez - (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Cubs shortstop Javier Baez brings home a Gold Glove for the first time.

This year featured three outstanding National League shortstops as finalists for the 2020 Gold Glove.  Miguel Rojas of the Miami Marlins, Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves and Javier Baez with the Chicago Cubs.

After last season I wrote that it was surprising that the Cubs fan favorite El Mago wasn’t even a finalist in the 2019 Gold Glove chase.  At that time, I wrote that ” …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.”

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Last year I said it was likely the 15 errors that cost Baez consideration as a finalist. What a difference a year makes.  Baez’s .968 fielding percentage was noticeably lower than Rojas’ .982 and Swanson’s .991.  On the other hand, Baez handled 88 more chances that Rojas and 25 more than the Atlanta infielder. That doesn’t account for all the extra misses, but it certainly explains some of that difference.

Perhaps the most telling metric is UZR-150 and Rojas’s 10.7 scorched his opposition. Nonetheless, his 2 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) was well below Baez’s seven and Swanson’s 10 DRS.  Another knock against Rojas might be the fact he played only 40 games because of the Marlins’ early-season COVID-19 outbreak.

The metric that perhaps swayed the vote toward Baez was likely Outs Above Average.  Baez was second among all NL shortstops in OAA, outpacing both the other finalists.

Another telling metric and likely the one that gets Baez his El Mago moniker is Plays made Out of Zone (OOZ). This metric uses a player’s zone, those parts of the field in which, on average, a fielder is able to convert half of his chances into outs and measures plays made outside that zone.  Baez made 62 plays OOZ in 469 1/3 innings, Swanson made 41 plays OOZ in 513 1/3 innings and Rojas made 19 plays OOZ in 309 innings.

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Those two key metrics, OOA and plays made OOZ, put the Cubs superstar on a whole different level compared to any other shortstop in the National League. So congrats finally to El Mago, and I am sure this Gold Glove is the first of many in what will be a superb career.