Avila, Cabrera, Kinsler named AL Gold Glove finalists
The Tigers haven’t had a Gold Glove winner since Placido Polanco in 2009. They might have their best chance in the five years since to break the drought.
Catcher Alex Avila, first baseman Miguel Cabrera and second baseman Ian Kinsler were named finalists at their respective positions for the American League Gold Glove awards. The winners will be revealed at 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 4 on ESPN2. None has won a Gold Glove in their careers, though Avila has been nominated two other times since the award went to a finalist format in 2011.
Gold Glove Award nominations are based 75 percent on voting by AL coaches and managers and 25 percent on defensive metrics, specifically a formula developed by SABR last year to help the process. The SABR Defensive Index takes into account Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Runs Effectively Defended.
For the Tigers, whose defense has been a perennial question each offseason, this year marks the highest number of finalists they’ve had under the current system, but their chances aren’t simply about the quantity of candidates. Especially with Kinsler’s season at second base, Detroit has a legitimate chance to end their search for gold.
While Detroit’s infield defense was a frequent point of scrutiny during the season, Kinsler not only stabilized his position, he put up the best metrics the Tigers have seen at second since Polanco left town. Under Defensive Runs Saved, a statistic created by The Fielding Bible to measure plays a defender makes compared to plays his peers would make, Kinsler’s plus-20 rating this year not only topped all Major League second baseman, but all AL infielders as well.
Under the better-known Ultimate Zone Rating, an effort to measure the number of plays a defender makes within his defensive zone, Kinsler’s 13 UZR ranked second at his spot behind three-time AL Gold Glove winner Dustin Pedroia.
Pedroia and Robinson Cano, who have alternated Gold Gloves for the past four years, are the other two finalists at second base. Polanco is the last AL second baseman other than those two to win, though Kinsler has been nominated once before.
Avila has been a frequent candidate based in large part on his success at throwing out would-be basestealers, and this season was no exception. After a down year last season, his caught-stealing rate of 34 percent (36-of-107) ranked fourth-best among Major League catchers with at least 100 starts behind the plate, and second in the AL to Brian McCann.
This year, however, Avila bolstered his case with a better all-around performance. Despite topping 1000 innings caught for the first time since 2011, he set career bests with just three passed balls and 23 wild pitches. His five defensive runs saved ranked second among AL catchers behind defending AL Gold Glove winner Salvador Perez.
Perez, not surprisingly, joins Avila among the finalists, as does Cleveland’s Yan Gomes.
The surprise among the group is Cabrera, who went from one of the worst-rated third baseman in the game to a relatively effective first baseman. His 4.3 UZR ranked fourth among AL players at his position, while his minus-one rating on defensive runs saved ranked sixth. His competition includes Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer, who won last year’s Gold Glove at first, and the Angels’ Albert Pujols, a two-time winner in the National League. No Tigers first baseman has ever won a Gold Glove.