AL Gold Gloves look more like Silver Sluggers

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The Gold Gloves aren’t worthy of any real analysis and never have been, but we won’t completely ignore them, even if it’s likely the best way to treat them.
The AL choices were announced Tuesday, and the managers and coaches voting for them clearly went for offense over defense:
C Joe Mauer
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Placido Polanco
3B Evan Longoria
SS Derek Jeter
OF Torii Hunter
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Adam Jones
P Mark Buehrle
It looks like a legitimate All-Star team, with only Polanco standing out as someone who wasn’t an offensive force this year.
Of course, overlooked were plenty of elite defenders.
The American League has two standout outfielders, neither of whom was honored. It’s baffling that Carl Crawford was again ignored, despite his outstanding reputation throughout the game. Of course, the voters prefer center fielders to corner outfielders, but they’re willing to keep going with Ichiro. It’s amazing that Jones, who is hardly an exceptional center fielder, beat out Crawford.
That the American League’s best outfielder was overlooked was hardly surprising. Franklin Gutierrez was simply brilliant in center field for the Mariners, and he probably rates as the game’s best defensive outfielder right now. If he hits 30 homers next year, perhaps the managers will start to take note.
Shortstop was the worst call, as it has been several times before. Actually, Jeter is playing better defense now than he did when he won his first three Gold Gloves, but there’s still no way he’s better than Cesar Izturis or Adam Everett. Unfortunately, those two didn’t put in full seasons. Erick Aybar and Elvis Andrus came closer. But since there was no consensus on who was really the best, Jeter somehow added to his collection.
That’s one of the problems with the Gold Gloves. Since the field never gets narrowed down at any point, Jeter could have conceivably won with 25 percent of the vote.
The others are all justifiable selections. Gerald Laird probably had a better season than Mauer behind the dish, but he’s hardly spectacular. There were no true standouts at first base. I’d put Dustin Pedroia ahead of Polanco at second, but UZR agrees with managers’ pick. Longoria and Chone Figgins were close at third. Ichiro had as good a case as any for the third outfielder along with Gutierrez and Crawford, and Hunter is still clearly above average.
I probably would have gone with Roy Halladay as the pitcher, but then I don’t think pickoffs should factor into it — I see that as a pitching statistic, not a fielding stat. Buehrle is very good even without taking into account his ability to limit the running game, so I’m fine with that one.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.