Jackson’s a Gold Glove finalist, Fielding Bible winner
For the first time that I can remember, the Gold Glove awards have a list of finalists, which not coincidentally sets up Tuesday night’s Gold Glove special on ESPN2. The side effect is that is sets up who has a realistic chance to win an award that doesn’t always follow the expected candidates.
In the Tigers’ case, they have two chances. Austin Jackson is one of three finalists for AL center field honors. Alex Avila is the same at AL catcher.
Because the outfield Gold Glove awards recognize center, left and right fielders separately, rather than three outfielders in general, Jackson has some of the toughest competition of any AL position. Jacoby Ellsbury and Peter Bourjos are two of the fastest men in the AL, and they use that speed to their advantage in center. Bourjos, in particular, showed a gift for running down drives into the gaps.
So, of course, did Jackson. And as the Fielding Bible awards suggest, he gets to way more balls than the average center fielder.
A day before the Gold Gloves are announced, ACTA sports came out with its annual honors to recognize the best Major League defender at each position in a given season. The Fielding Bible award in center field went to Jackson.
Unlike Gold Gloves, which are voted on by Major League coaches, the Fielding Bible award weigh heavily towards advanced defensive stats. Winners are decided by a 10-person panel that includes Fielding Bible co-author John Dewan, statistical analysis pioneer Bill James, MLB Network great Peter Gammons, acclaimed columnist and author Joe Posnanski, and former Major League outfielder Doug Glanville.
In the latest release of the Bill James Handbook, Dewan wrote that Jackson’s advantage was in the stats.
“He topped all center fielders with 21 Runs Saved in 2010, but Austin Jackson had to do it even better (with 22 Runs Saved) in 2011 to earn his first Fielding Bible Award,” Dewan wrote. “Jackson has made 63 more plays than an average center fielder over the last two years. That’s an incredible total. It’s on the plays over his head that AJ really excels (43 of the 63). Making 43 more catches than an average center fielder on balls hit deep is where those lofty Runs Saved totals come in, as he is saving doubles and triples when he makes these catches.”
Jackson got as many first-place votes (three) as Arizona’s Chris Young, but the difference was the five second-place votes he received, compared with just two for Young. The only vote that put Jackson outside the top three was something called the Tango Fan Poll.
Avila finished eighth in voting among Major League catchers, a category won by Matt Wieters. Not coincidentally, he’s one of Avila’s fellow finalists for the AL Gold Glove, along with A.J. Pierzynski (???). Avila threw out just under a third of would-be basestealers (40-for-125) while posting a .995 fielding percentage (five errors in 1,018 total chances). He was charged with seven passed balls, and Tigers pitchers threw 56 wild pitches with him behind the plate.
Wieters threw out 34-of-92 would-be basestealers, allowed one passed ball, and watched his pitchers deliver 25 wild pitches.
Among those left out among Gold Glove finalists was Jhonny Peralta, who statistically had a very underrated season at shortstop. But so was Texas’ Elvis Andrus. Erick Aybar, Asdrubal Cabrera and J.J. Hardy are the three finalists, though Peralta statistically had a pretty good case for a better defensive season than Cabrera.