In Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor, the Washington Nationals have two Gold Glove finalists. Can either one of them win the award?
When Major League Baseball announced the Gold Glove Award finalists on Thursday, the Washington Nationals were relatively well-represented. Both Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor were named finalists for their respective positions.
This is Rendon’s second consecutive season being named a Gold Glove Award finalist, but he fell short last year. He has established himself as not just one of the best defensive third basemen in the league, but one of the best defensive players in the league.
Unfortunately for Rendon, he is often overshadowed by Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. Arenado beat Rendon out for the award last year, and is likely to repeat this season. Along with Rendon and Arenado, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman David Freese was also named a finalist.
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Although Arenado is likely to win the award, sabermetrics favor Rendon. According to FanGraphs, two of the most prominent defensive metrics point to Rendon being the superior third baseman.
Rendon’s Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is 13.6, which is considered to be Gold Glove caliber. Arenado’s UZR, on the other hand, is only 6.7, which is considered to be great. Defensive Runs Above Average (Def) also favors Rendon. Rendon’s Def is 15.8, which is considered to be excellent, while Arenado’s is 9.0, which is great.
Rendon was frequently associated with FanGraphs throughout the season since he led the National League in fWAR, but FanGraphs again suggests that he is an elite and perhaps even superior third baseman.
Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor was also named a Gold Glove Award finalist. While he still has tough competition, he has a better shot to win the award. In addition to Taylor, Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton and Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte were named finalists.
The same two defensive metrics that portrayed Rendon as the superior third baseman, UZR and Def, portray Taylor as the superior center fielder.
Taylor’s UZR of 10.1 ended up being higher than Hamilton’s 7.6 and Inciarte’s 2.2. Def also favored Taylor, as his 11.7 was higher than Hamilton’s 9.6 and Inciarte’s 4.6.
While defensive metrics have not yet been perfected, several of the most prominent metrics favor Rendon and Taylor. In addition to sabermetrics, Rendon and Taylor both pass the eye test.
At third base, Rendon makes near-impossible plays appear simple on a seemingly nightly basis. He has mastered his sidearm throw, and is one of the smoothest fielders in the league.
Taylor also passes the eye test with flying colors. He struggled offensively in previous seasons, but has always been a terrific defender.
He showcases his elite speed and athleticism to make highlight reel plays and get to balls that other outfielders cannot dream of getting to. He has also shown on several occasions that he is capable of getting up to rob a home run at the wall.
Another asset of Taylor’s is the cannon that he calls an arm. He was eighth among National League outfielders in assists with eight, but may have gotten more if runners continued to run on him. For whatever reason, people stop running on an outfielder who consistently guns runners down.
Rendon and Taylor were both honored as Gold Glove finalists on Thursday, but only one is likely to win. Oddly enough, that would be the man who entered 2017 as a backup, Michael Taylor. Both Rendon and Taylor are elite defenders, but Rendon is a tiny bit better. However, it is Taylor that has the best chance to bring the Nats a Gold Glove Award.