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Was Max Kepler Robbed of a Gold Glove Nomination?


Major League Baseball and Rawlings announced the 2021 Gold Glove Finalists, but there was one notable exclusion from the nominees. Was Max Kepler robbed of a Gold Glove nomination?

 

Corner outfield spots can include a mixture of solid defenders and other players searching for a position where they will cause the least amount of damage. There are many strong defenders in the American League in right field, including this year’s Gold Glove finalists. New York’s Joey Gallo is searching for his second-consecutive win, while Boston’s Hunter Renfroe and Houston’s Kyle Tucker seek their first honor. 

One of the metrics used to decide Gold Gloves is SABR’s Defensive Index. Those numbers were last updated near the end of August, and Kepler only had one right fielder ranked below him at that time. Gallo (8.6 SDI) was the clear leader in SDI, with Tucker (4.6 SDI) ranking second. Defensively, SDI isn’t the only metric that should be put into consideration for Gold Gloves. 

According to Outs Above Average, Kepler was one of the AL’s best fielders in 2021. Kepler’s 8 Outs Above Average ranked second in the league behind Manuel Margot. Gallo and Tucker were tied with 6 OAA, and Renfroe posted a -1 OAA, which was 26th among all right fielders this season. 

Kepler also ranked well concerning other StatCast defensive metrics as his Jump was one of the best in baseball. According to Baseball Savant, “Jump is calculated only on plays that are Two Stars or harder, meaning with a 90% Catch Probability or lower.” Kepler was tied for 15th among all of baseball’s outfielders by covering 1.7 feet above average. Gallo was the lone nominee to rank higher than him with a Jump of 2.1 feet above average. 

One area where Kepler excels is with 3-Star catches. According to Baseball Savant, 3-Star catches are when an average fielder has a 51-75% chance of making the play. Kepler was a perfect 14-for-14 in relation to 3-Star catches this season. Only four outfielders in all of baseball were perfect in that category this season, and he had three more opportunities than the others. 

Other defensive metrics have Kepler near the top of the AL. According to FanGraphs, he ranks first in RngR, the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity. Kepler ranks third in UZR, with none of the nominees ranking higher than him. Kepler was also one of six AL right fielders to have more than nine defensive runs saved. 

When looking at the numbers, it seems likely for Gallo to earn his second-consecutive Gold Glove. However, Kepler has built up the defensive resume that should put him in the conversation as one of baseball’s best defensive right fielders. 

Do you think Kepler was robbed of a nomination? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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Yes.  Renfroe had a great season throwing people out, but otherwise is at best, an average defender.  Playing outfield defense is more than having a strong arm.  Reggie Jackson and Willie Stargell had strong arms.  But nobody ever considered either a Gold Glove caliber defender.  Max should have been in the mix over Renfroe.

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11 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

I don't know.  Defensive choices are always questionable.  No one has come up with a truly excellent defensive metric and I do not know if we overrate him here in Twins land.  

All the metrics love Kepler's defense. Even over at fangraphs he's the best fielding RF in the AL. Yes he got snubbed. The major component of selection is managers and coaches. Being mostly cynical of all things these days, I'm not sure how robust their effort is in making their selections or if there is back room shenanigans going on. Sometimes effortless excellence gets overlooked. Snubbed I say, snubbed.

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The ones that were nominated I'm sure are excellent RFs but yes he got snubbed. If you look at everything Kepler would debatably be the top choice. I don't trust the formulas in which a player is evaluated but I agree with Ace that Kepler dominated. Judging players by errors is archaic,  IMO Statcast should be the standard even for the INF. If a player can't make the makeable out, I don't care how few errors he make.

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6 hours ago, AceWrigley said:

All the metrics love Kepler's defense. Even over at fangraphs he's the best fielding RF in the AL. Yes he got snubbed. The major component of selection is managers and coaches. Being mostly cynical of all things these days, I'm not sure how robust their effort is in making their selections or if there is back room shenanigans going on. Sometimes effortless excellence gets overlooked. Snubbed I say, snubbed.

It's something how some players make difficult plays look easy and get overlooked and others make easy plays look hard and people are in awe.

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