Tonight, at 7:00 PM, the Rawlings Gold Glove will be announced. Evan Longoria is one of three American League third baseman up for the award. The other two are his usual competition: ace third baseman Adrian Beltre, and converted shortstop Manny Machado.
Of the three, Evan Longoria was the most dependable, with a .976 fielding percentage that was best in the league, and that set the Rays record for fielding percentage at third base (previously held by Akinori Iwamura).
Before we get too far into what it means to have a good fielding percentage and whether or not Longoria should win, let's take a moment to appreciate that dependability. For Rays fans, appreciating dependability means thinking about 2012.
In 2012, Longoria struggled with injuries, and played only 413 innings at third base. He made eight errors during that time, for a .937 fielding percentage. Jeff Keppinger stepped in ably, but he too missed time with injury, and he also spent time at both first and second base.
Here's the house of horrors that was Longoria's replacements:
Fans will remember the sense of dread every time we saw a grounder to the left side (the Rays shortstop defense wasn't too hot, either). S-Rod was uncharacteristically erratic. Rhymes simply couldn't throw it far enough. Conrad was too raw of a dog, and Drew Sutton was a career minor leaguer for a reason.
Things only started to normalize when the Rays finally found a guy who resembled a major league infielder with Ryan Roberts.
And that's why you should care about fielding percentage, and appreciate what we have in Evan Longoria.
But should that win a Gold Glove?
That's a harder sell.
Defensive Runs Saved didn't particularly like Longoria this season, grading him as one run below average (with Beltre first, then Machado, then Josh Donaldson rounding out the top three). I find that hard to believe, and I've never been the biggest fan of DRS anyway.
Ultimate Zone Rating also ranks Longoria behind those three other third basemen, however it has him much closer to their total numbers, and part of the issue is that he had dramatically fewer plays to make than any of them. On a rate basis, UZR thought that Longoria was the second best defensive third baseman in the AL, behind only Beltre, with 12.3 more runs (nearly a full win) saved per 150 games than the average.
For me, it all comes down to Beltre, who made more errors (17 E, .956 FP) but who somehow keeps fielding at a ridiculous level in his age-36 season. Longoria's campaign was worthy of a Gold Glove, but it probably wasn't good enough to win this year, given what Beltre continues to do.
That should't stop us from celebrating Longoria.
Gold standard. pic.twitter.com/U4C2jMQD7w— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) November 5, 2015