Universal DH: Enough foot dragging

Pud Galvin, a Hall of Fame pitcher who looked like a mustachioed Babe Ruth but was part of a rotation that made Mario Mendoza resemble Mickey Mantle at the plate with or without the mustache. (Hall of Fame photo.)

Two fetuses gestated in 1891 America and both had impacts on baseball. William Mills Wrigley, Jr. carried his company to term and, in due course, from scouring soap and baking powder to chewing gum and himself to buying the Chicago Cubs. William Chase Temple’s fetus, the designated hitter, ended in a miscarriage.

His concept had nothing to do with extending the careers of great hitters who’d lost it (or never really had it) in the field, and everything to do with being fed up wasting a batting order position.

Temple owned the Pittsburgh Pirates. One group of five hitters on his 1891 team went to the plate 510 times and collected 78 hits between them in 473 official at-bats. Their collective batting average was .165. A group hitting like that should make you wonder what on earth they were doing within ten nautical miles of a major league roster.

OK, I just threw you a spitball. The quintet in question were pitchers: Hall of Famer Pud Galvin, plus Mark Baldwin, Silver King, Harry Staley, and Scott Stratton. Knowing that plus the foregoing, are you truly surprised now that Temple impregnated himself with the idea we know as the designated hitter?

Fair disclosure requires mentioning that the 1891 Pirates weren’t exactly a prehistoric Pittsburgh Lumber Company. They also finished dead last in the National League pennant race. Their worst-hitting regular position player still hit 49 points higher than that pitching staff. Connie Mack (catcher) is another Hall of Famer, but he didn’t exactly get there because he was a terrorist at the plate.

The Boston Beaneaters, ancestors of today’s Atlanta Braves, won the pennant . . . and their main pitching staff actually hit worse (.127) than the Pirate staff did. Temple had little trouble convincing fellow owner J. Walter Spalding, whose New York Giants pitchers actually could hit a little bit, that pitchers at the plate were worth as much as catchers on the mound.

The 19 December 1891 issue of The Sporting Life includes a short article citing Temple and Spalding in agreement: pitchers had no business hitting. Temple said aloud he wanted a designated hitter replacing a pitcher in the batting order. Today’s reactionary old farts would demand Temple’s impeachment and removal, preferably yesterday.

They should only know how Spalding wanted to see and raise: eliminate pitchers from batting orders entirely, without replacement, and let the batting lineups be eight men in. If you would wish Temple’s removal in irons and chains, you might wish Spalding’s public hanging.

“Every patron of the game is conversant with the utter worthlessness of the average pitcher when he goes up to try and hit the ball,” said Sporting Life in agreement with Temple.

It is most invariably a trial, and an unsuccessful one at that. If fortune does favor him with a base hit it is ten to one that he is so winded in getting to first or second base on it that when he goes into the box it is a matter of very little difficulty to pound him all over creation.

Temple didn’t face impeachment, merely the turn-down of his proposal in a very close vote by the National League’s rules committee of the time. The vote seems to have been tipped against by Chris von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns. (Refugees from the ancient and freshly folded American Association, and starting National League play in 1892, von der Ahe’s Browns have been known since 1900 as the St. Louis Cardinals.)

Once and for all let us dispense, then, with the prejudice that the designated hitter is a product of that nefarious American League who’ve conspired since 1973 to turn the Show into a high-price softball league. The American League didn’t even think about the idea until 1906.

That’s when Mack—Pirates catcher grown up to manage (and in due course own) the Philadelphia Athletics—raised the DH seriously, after watching and tiring of his own pitching staff swinging at the plate as though their bats were made of cardboard paper roll tubes. Those 1906 A’s pitchers who got into 22 games or more—including Hall of Famers Chief Bender, Rube Waddell, and Eddie Plunk (er, Plank)—hit a collective .201.

Being only slightly better hitters than Mack’s 1891 Pirates didn’t stop the Tall Tactician from proposing a DH for the American League at season’s end. The league turned him down, too. Twenty-two years later came the next in vitro of the DH, by John Heydler—president of the National League. This time around, the American League caused the National League’s miscarriage.

None in Show would try again until the 1960s minor leagues, including the AAA-level International League, brought the baby to term successfully. That caught the eye and ear of a later, far more controversial A’s owner, Charlie Finley. The rest, of course, you know, unless you forgot that the National League tried once more to bring the fetus to full term, in 1980.

Five NL teams voted no; four voted yes; three abstained. The National League miscarried again.

It’s not that I haven’t written about the designated hitter’s true history before, but I raise it once again because at this writing Show fans still don’t know whether Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Major League Baseball Players Association will get off the proverbial schneid, get onto the same page, and consecrate the permanent, universal DH.

Manfred seems more determined to keep more abominable ideas such as the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, the free cookie on second base to open each extra half inning, and a permanently expanded postseason. He still seems unable to grok that leaving the permanent universal DH in the air did few, if any favours, for a lot of free agents more suited to designated hitting than earlier in their careers. Or, for a lot of teams who’d love to have their bats without sending them out into the field with gloves that could be tried by jury for sedition.

Not knowing whether they’d have the DH option may have factored as heavily as their current economic folderol when the Cubs decided to non-tender Kyle Schwarber. The Nationals did sign Schwarber, of course, which tells you how unafraid they are of finding him plate appearances while the most polite description of him as a defender is “suspect.” But not every National League team is quite that risk-willing.

Don’t make the mistake of believing Schwarber is just another contemporary phenomenon. There have been DH types in baseball all through the live ball era now 101 years old. They didn’t exactly begin with Dick (Dr. Strangeglove) Stuart, whose butcher shop at first base was tolerated for eight of his ten major league seasons because he could and did hit baseballs across county lines.

The so-called purists merely forget or can’t bear to think about it. But ponder this: What would you do with a second baseman who can flat out hit but has limited enough fielding range and averages eighteen errors charged per year at the position in a seventeen-season playing career? Today you’d want a DH slot available to you because you don’t want to lose a bat that would lead the league in OPS six straight seasons and OPS+ seven. Shake hands with Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby.

Ponder this, too: Ted Williams—arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived and, if you didn’t believe it, you could have asked him—hated fielding. He has the career defensive statistics to back him up, too: enough below his league’s averages. Now, put Williams in today’s game as a DH and turn him loose at the plate. You’re really going to get an earful about who’s the greatest hitter who ever lived and, if you don’t believe it, you’d better ask him.

Let’s give Manfred and the MLBPA a little more historic reference. The following table shows decade by decade how Show pitchers have hit beginning with 1920 (for the 1910s) because that seems the first year in which league splits by defensive positions are available:

Year BA OBP SLG OPS BA +/- MLB AVG
1920 .202 .247 .254 .500 -74
1930 .214 .254 .285 .539 -82
1940 .179 .218 .222 .441 -88
1950 .178 .231 .227 .459 -88
1960 .155 .206 .194 .401 -100
1970 .146 .188 .192 .380 -108
1980 .156 .192 .197 .390 -109
1990 .138 .172 .169 .341 -120
2000 .148 .185 .192 .377 -122
2010 .141 .175 .174 .348 -116

Notice the numbers for 1940, representing the 1930s. That was a decade in which batting statistics overall were off the charts, with the Show’s sixteen teams averaging about five runs per game and batting .267 with a .726 OPS.

Do you really want this lifetime .101/.126/.152 slash line hitting or wasting outs? (Yu Darvish.)

Now, ask yourselves whether those or any other decade’s pitchers’ batting statistics would show you a major league level hitter if you didn’t know those numbers belonged to pitchers at the plate. Instead of asking and demanding why pitchers aren’t taught “to play the whole game,” too, ask and demand to know, too, why you’d really want pitchers with valuable arms and talents wasting strength and stamina, risking their health even further when you (damn well should) know pitching itself is a health risk going in.

So pitchers can drop sacrifice bunts? Wonderful. Glad you can afford to waste outs for the nebulous sake of “strategy.” I’d rather see real hitters think about bunting against those defensive shifts for base hits a time or two during games and putting the kibosh on those shifts post haste. A few have, and there should be more. Show me all that delicious free real estate, and I’ll show you a little bunt on an outside pitch and me on first base before your alarm clocks ring.

Glad, too, that it’s little of the proverbial skin off your teeth that an effective pitcher showing no early fatigue yet might be scheduled to hit with two out, at least one man on, batting stats making Mario Mendoza resemble Mickey Mantle, and side retired with no further profit.

You want “strategy?” The universal DH might actually add some. Think about a second cleanup hitter or an extra leadoff-type batting in that number nine slot. Some teams have. Who’d you rather have batting ninth with a man or two aboard? Who’d you rather have batting in the nine spot if it leads the next inning off? Hint: In either case, it won’t be Yu Darvish.

One more time, hand it off to Thomas Boswell, because he’s still right as rain: “It’s fun to see Max Scherzer slap a single to right field and run it out like he thinks he’s Ty Cobb. But I’ll sacrifice that pleasure to get rid of the thousands of rallies I’ve seen killed when an inning ends with one pitcher working around a competent No. 8 hitter so he can then strike out the other pitcher. When you get in a jam in the AL, you must pitch your way out of it, not ‘pitch around’ your way out of it.”

By the way, in full-season 2019 Show batters struck out 42,823 times. Would you like to know which non-pitching batters struck out the least that season? You can look it up: the designated hitters. They struck out a mere 2,652 times, compared to none of the other non-pitchers striking out less than 4,093 times. Joe and Jane Fan bitching about all those strikeouts should love the DH, no?

The owners are said to be more than willing to let the players have the universal DH—if the players agree in turn to permanently expanded postseasons. The players should tell them to stuff that idea. We’ve had a long enough era of the thrills, chills, and spills watching teams fighting to the last breath to finish the season . . . in second place.

We got close enough to a pair of losing teams in last year’s World Series, too. Allow that 2020 was a pandemically-imposed freak season. But remember that the 29-31 Astros got all the way to the American League Championship Series. Are you really ready for the prospect of a losing team over a full season getting the chance to play their way to the World Series or even win the Series?

The universal DH really would remove a blemish from the lineup while helping still-effective bats find fresh jobs. The so-called purists, the reactionary old farts, fight harder to stop that than to stop the continuing dilution of championship play. I could tell you another word for that kind of thinking, but then you’d have to kill me. And my fountain pen (yes, I still write with one) has light years to go before it sleeps.

Update: After this essay was published, news arrived that the MLBPA rejected the universal DH—because the owners offered to allow it contingent upon their accepting permanently-expanded postseasons. Before you say “damn fools,” remember that further dilution of championship play should not be accepted.

Not right, Nats

2020-07-14 DaveMartinezMikeRizzo

Dave Martinez (left) and Mike Rizzo. The Nats’ GM hasn’t heard a peep about a contract extension or wholly new deal yet despite being in the final year of his current deal. The skipper hasn’t, either, despite having one more year on his current deal.

You built a World Series champion through trials, errors, and very occasional calls for your head on a plate while you stayed your course and kept your eye on the Promised Land. It wasn’t just any World Series champion but Washington’s first Show champion* since the Coolidge Administration.

But your contract expires after the season to follow, however truncated the coronavirus world tour makes it. Wouldn’t you think your bosses would want you to stick around so you can give it your best shot at sustaining that success?

Or, you managed that club from hell to the highest waters possible, despite the not-so-great bullpen you were handed to work with when last year began, keeping them from losing their marble (singular) despite a 19-31 season beginning. They bought your go-1-0-every-day philosophy. You gave them room to go 74-38 the rest of the season and perform feats of derring-do without nets and, sometimes, logic.

You also did it while earning barely more than the minimum major league player’s salary. Wouldn’t you think, too, that the same bosses would want you to stick around so you can give it your best shot at convincing your team their next theme song—Gerardo Parra, after all, has moved onward, taking the “Baby Shark” mojo with him—should be, “I Want to Take You Higher?”

Sure you would. Both of you would. But nobody in the Washington Nationals’ executive suite seems to have moved so much as a fingernail on it. Meaning, as USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reminds us, that general manager Mike Rizzo is a lame duck in a truncated season and manager Dave Martinez is a year from the same quack.

And, if Rizzo’s a lame duck this year he may not be the one able to move on keeping Martinez above and beyond 2021, presuming the Nats’ success sustains. Which it should, whenever the game returns to something resembling normal, with the extending of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer not exactly showing age just yet, a new young core and several reliable veterans.

This is the GM who took a big hit in 2018 when—in the middle of an already injury-compromised season that also included Bryce Harper’s walk year—he dumped two relief pitchers in circumstances described as dubious at best and disingenuous at worst.

When Shawn Kelley was brought in to pitch near the end of a blowout, looked toward Martinez for guidance about an umpire’s positioning, then spiked his glove after surrendering a home run, Rizzo took it as showing up the skipper even though Martinez didn’t see it that way. He didn’t give Kelley a chance, getting in the reliever’s face then releasing him to be snapped up by the Oakland Athletics.

When Rizzo suspected concurrently that Kelley’s fellow reliever Brandon Kintzler was the source of a Yahoo! Sports story calling the Nats clubhouse a big mess, he didn’t even bother to verify it—he sent Kintzler off to the Chicago Cubs. Both Kelley and Kintzler found themselves back in the races at their new addresses. Kintzler denied emphatically, with then-Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Passan’s affirmation, that he was the source of the clubhouse mess story.

“If you’re not in,” Rizzo said emphatically, “you’re in the way.” In those moments it looked as though the GM himself could be charged under that statute.

Rizzo stood his ground for better or worse. So did Martinez, whose bullpen management was considered suspect but who was, in fairness, suffering a malady his predecessors had to suffer, too. For the longest time Rizzo was seen as the GM who could and did build solid starting rotations, solid position cores, and reasonable benches, but just couldn’t build bullpens with the same surety.

Martinez never lost his players when all was said and done, either. “They held onto Martinez,” writes Washington Post sportswriter Jesse Dougherty in Buzz Saw: The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals Won the World Series, “despite faint calls for his job, and he didn’t spend October [2018] watching the postseason. That would have been one kind of torture. He chose even worse.”

He went everywhere with an iPad that had each of the Nationals’ 162 games loaded onto it. He hunted in Wisconsin, fished outside Salt Lake City, lay in the hammock at his farm outside Nashville, and still carved out time, every day, to relive all the mistakes. There were his mistakes, mostly with the bullpen, such as leaving relievers in too long, or not striking the right balance between analytics and his gut. Then there were his players’ mistakes, such as taking the wrong plate approach, the wrong baserunning approach, or lapsing on defense . . .

He got to West Palm Beach [for spring training 2019] in early February and called for a staff meeting. That’s when he told the coaches about correcting the little things. Mistakes were met with yelling “Do it again!” into quiet mornings . . .

The calls for both Rizzo’s and Martinez’s heads ramped up at that 19-31 start last year. By the time they shoved the Milwaukee Brewers out of the wild card game, upended the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division series (something about a guy named Howie Kendrick detonating a grand slam at the expense of a manager who misread his bullpen even worse), and buried the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, executions were no longer an option.

When Rizzo’s midyear trade acquisition Daniel Hudson struck Michael Brantley out swinging to finish what a gutsy Scherzer started (pitching five innings on fumes and probably lucky to have only two runs pried out of him) and Kendrick overturned (that pole-ringing two-run homer turning a deficit into a lead the Nats never lost) in Game Seven of the World Series, the calls weren’t for executions but canonisations.

Lately Rizzo has been more than just the deft rebuilder. The Show’s contradictory COVID-19 issues of late got a verbal beatdown from Rizzo after Nats’ tests were still delayed 72 hours after July 3.

“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” Rizzo said. “Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning. We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

He wasn’t alone. The A’s, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Angels, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and other teams found themselves canceling workouts or intra-squad games over testing delays. This is no bowl of Raisin Bran they’re dealing with.

Letting Rizzo be the face of the Nats when it comes to coronavirus safety protocols is one thing, Nightengale writes. Letting him sit as a lame duck otherwise isn’t acceptable. “It’s insane,” he continues, “but again this is the same ownership that fired manager Dusty Baker after winning back-to-back division titles. It’s the same owners that told Bud Black he was their new manager, only to offer him a one-year deal. The same owners who have perhaps the smallest and lowest-paid front office staffs in baseball.”

The same owners whose manager earns barely more than infield comer Carter Kieboom would have earned in a full 2020 season.

Nightengale notices something else, too. He notices that, during Rizzo’s tenure, not one Nat—other than longtime clubhouse leader Jayson Werth hit with a reckless driving charge (going 105 on the Beltway)—has made room for even the mildest scandal: “No PED suspensions. No domestic violence suspensions. No discrimination lawsuits.”

No extracurricular, off-field-based high-tech cheating, either. So far. The Astros and the Boston Red Sox may or may not be right that they weren’t the only ones operating illegal intelligence agencies during their World Series-winning seasons. The New York Yankees still have some splainin’ to do about that illicit dugout phone and possible other extracurricular Yankee panky. But nobody’s pointed any such finger toward the Nats just yet. They might be the only part of Washington you can still call scandal free. So far.

When ancient questionable tweets by shortstop star Trea Turner surfaced, Turner simply manned up, said he was young and stupid and not necessarily in that order, and that was that. No muss, no fuss, no attempt to duck, nothing more than a quick apology.

Loyalty is one thing, and Rizzo has that in abundance to his bosses and his players alike, so long as he doesn’t think those players are in the way. But what does it tell you that only two other teams won more games than the 2010s Nats while the Nats finished the decade with the keys to the Promised Land but you can find almost ten teams with better-paid front office people?

Rizzo and Martinez have earned new deals. For Martinez, it might make up for his not being named Manager of the Year over the Cardinals’s Mike Schildt as he should have been for 2019. Schildt lifting a slightly leaky boat isn’t even close to Martinez raising the Titanic.

“[T]his is a proud baseball franchise,” Nightengale writes, “and shouldn’t be run like a construction site, sitting back and making bids to get the cheapest cost.” Maybe some Nats players—who are as loyal to Rizzo and Martinez as those two bosses are to them—could drive the point home further by having their batting helmets re-shaped into construction site hard hats?

——————————————-

Let us not forget: The Homestead Grays, playing their home games in Washington’s ancient Griffith Stadium, beat the Birmingham Black Barons in the final Negro Leagues World Series in 1948.

Fields of gold

2019-11-04 GoldGloveLet the award debates begin. The Gold Gloves have been awarded. And, the good news is that there wasn’t as much fool’s gold mined this year as in seasons past.

That won’t stop the debates, of course. Almost nothing in baseball ever really does, which keeps the fun going when the games are over.

I’m as much a lover of the highlight reel plays as anyone, just the way we love the acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil, but the real name of the game behind the plate or in the field is saving runs against your team.

The better news this year: there was only one Gold Glove winner who could really be called a legacy pick alone. If only we could get that kind of success when the All-Star Game teams are chosen.

Catchers—The National League winner: J.T. Realmuto (Phillies). The should-have-been National League winner: Austin Hedges (Padres). Why? Realmuto’s throwing arm looked only too obvious (as it should have), but Hedges saved more runs defensively—the margin is 22 for Hedges and 11 for Realmuto.

Hedges also has another advantage: neither he nor Realmuto had particularly great pitching staffs to handle, but Padres pitchers throwing to Hedges had a collective 4.10 ERA and Phillies pitchers throwing to Realmuto had a 4.61. I get Realmuto’s throwing arm making him look more obvious, but Hedges was better.

Yadier Molina, you say? He was one of the NL’s three Glove finalists, but he simply wasn’t as good as Hedges and Realmuto behind the plate this year. His career-long work behind the plate will probably make him a Hall of Famer in due course.

And he still handles pitching staffs well enough, even allowing that the Cardinals had a better staff than the Padres and the Phillies this year: the Cardinals had a 3.82 team ERA with Molina behind the plate but also with Jack Flaherty coming into his own in the second half.

But in 2019 Molina was worth only two defensive runs saved and he threw out only 27 percent of those trying to steal on him—13 below his career average and one below the league average for his career. Age begins getting all of us sooner or later.

The American League winner: Roberto Perez (Indians). The should-have-been American League winner: Perez. No contest. Perez was worth the second-most defensive runs saved (29) ever since the statistic became accepted in 2003. (Molina had 30 in 2013.) He also saved his pitchers 11 runs with his pitch-framing skill and saved them a nice volume of wild pitches, leading the league with seven pitch-blocking runs saved.

First base—The National League winner: Anthony Rizzo (Cubs). The should-have-been winner: Christian Walker (Diamondbacks). Why? Forget that Walker had a tough job of replacing Paul Goldschmidt. Nobody in the National League was better this season when it came to getting balls most first basemen don’t reach, especially ranging to his right.

Walker was also worth nine runs saved in the field to Rizzo’s three. He also had 99 assists to Rizzo’s 87. Rizzo had a solid season but Walker was far enough better at the pad. With only two Gold Gloves coming into 2019 it’s not really fair to call Rizzo a legacy choice this time. (See Alex Gordon in due course.)

The American League winner: Matt Olson (Athletics). The should-have-been winner: Olson. He’s very much on his own plane, especially the manner in which he handled offline throws knowing the Oakland Coliseum has foul territory comparable to Central Park. Nobody in the league was better at saving throwing errors and runs at first base.

Second base—The National League winner: Kolten Wong (Cardinals). The should-have-been winner: Wong. No contest. He didn’t just lead the league in defensive runs saved at his position, there was no second baseman in the league less likely to crumple or misstep playing in the shifts than Wong. If Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski had a contemporary equal for virtuosity at second base, it was Wong this season.

The American League winner: Yolmer Sanchez (White Sox). The should-have-been winner: Tossup. Sanchez played more games at second base than D.J. LeMahieu (Yankees) but saved only one more run in the field. Sanchez probably nailed the Glove because he played 149 games at second base to LeMahieu’s 75 at the position. Either would have been a respectable Glove winner.

The third finalist for the Glove, Jose Altuve, was probably hurt in the field as well as at the plate by his early-season health issues: he was worth -2 defensive runs saved in 2019.

Shortstop—The National League winner: Nick Ahmed (Diamondbacks). The should-have-been winner: Tossup. There was barely a hair’s difference between Ahmed and Trevor Story (Rockies) in 2019, but Ahmed was just a little better at ranging to his right to get balls and make assists on difficult-to-impossible throws going that way.

They’ll both have tough competition in 2020, though, now that Javier Baez (Cubs) looks to be entrenched as a full-time shortstop.

The American League winner: Francisco Lindor (Indians). The should-have-been winner: Andrelton Simmons (Angels). He may only have played 102 games in the field in 2019 but he was far enough ahead of the league pack when it came to saving runs that it should have been no contest.

My guess: the Gold Glove voters noted Simmons reaching the minimum innings required at just about the last minute, and they also saw that while Lindor is an excellent fielding shortstop he also out-hit Simmons on the season. Right or wrong, there probably remain those voters who presume a solid bat equals a Gold Glove.

Third base—The National League winner: Nolen Arenado (Rockies). The should-have-been winner: Arenado. Taken cumulatively, it could have been a tossup between Arenado and Josh Donaldson (Braves); taken from there to difficult plays, Arenado takes it by a finger. He was simply that much better at the toughest plays.

Note: Arenado now has the fourth-most Gold Gloves of any third baseman ever, behind Scott Rolen; and, his seven straight are behind only Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt (ten) and Brooks Robinson (sixteen) for consecutive Gloves among third basemen.

The American League winner: Matt Chapman (Athletics). The should-have-been winner: Chapman. If Schmidt and Robinson have a contemporary equal for highlight-reel plays it’s Chapman. If you’re looking for the third baseman who’s going to save you the most runs at the hot corner, it’s Chapman. Still.

Left field—The National League winner: David Peralta (Diamondbacks). The should-have-been winner: Peralta. He tied for the Show lead among left fielders with ten defensive runs saved, and only Robbie Grossman of the Twins was his equal for running balls to the deepest regions on his side of the outfield and catching them.

The American League winner: Alex Gordon (Royals). The should-have-been winner: Tossup between Grossman and Michael Brantley (Astros). Peralta, Brantley, and the Yankees’ pleasant surprise Mike Tauchman each had ten defensive runs saved—the best in Show in left field. The voters didn’t look deep enough to make Brantley a finalist, alas; and Tauchman didn’t play enough innings to rate for the Glove.

Gordon had one defensive run saved in 2019. He may still be a solid man in left field, but this looks like a legacy pick: Gordon had six Gold Gloves on his mantel coming into 2019.

Center field—The National League winner: Lorenzo Cain (Brewers). The should-have-been winner: Victor Robles (Nationals). Both were consistent throughout the season but Robles finished first in the league with 22 defensive runs saved and twelve assists while Cain robbed five home runs (tying the record he shares with Carlos Gomez and Josh Reddick).

I’m guessing the Gold Glove voters also had in mind that Cain should have won a Glove or three in the past and thought it was time to give him what was overdue in some ways. But Robles was better. Cain isn’t exactly a legacy pick, but you can call him a makeup pick. It could have been worse.

The American League winner: Kevin Kiermaier (Rays). The should-have-been winner: Kiermaier. He’s been thinned a little by the injury bug but he still saved the most defensive runs of any American League center field Glove finalist in 2019. (Thirteen.) But Byron Buxton (Twins) was shaved worse by the injury bug; if he’d played just 21 more innings, he might have beaten Kiermaier.

Right field—The National League winner: Cody Bellinger (Dodgers). The should-have-been winner: Bellinger. He edged out the league’s two other Glove finalists, Bryce Harper (Phillies) and Jason Heyward (Cubs) in defensive runs saved; his throwing arm improved enough that runners advanced on base hits to right less against Bellinger than the other two.

The American League winner: Mookie Betts (Red Sox). The should-have-been winner: A healthier Aaron Judge (Yankees). Judge was one of the Yankees who made the team’s yearbook the New England Journal of Medicine and that kept him out of the 2019 Glove running, but he still had more defensive runs saved than Betts.

But Betts without Judge was still ahead of the American League right field pack. And in case you were wondering, the right fielder who had the single biggest improvement in the majors in defensive runs saved in 2019 was . . . Harper. (2018: -29. 2019: +9.) It wasn’t even close.

Pitchers—The National League winner: Zack Greinke (then with the Diamondbacks). The American League winner: Mike Leake (Mariners). The should-have-been winner: Greinke in both leagues.

He was that good fielding his position, both before and after his trade to the Astros. He was as good as having an extra second baseman or shortstop on the field. He led pitchers in the entire Show for starting double plays coming off the mound. Pitchers not named Greinke started five tops; Greinke started twelve.

Greinke got only half his due winning the National League award. Leake was a solid defender off the mound this year and has a career-long reputation as one of his league’s best-fielding pitchers. Leake’s other AL competition came up short of qualifying by seventeen innings: Marcus Stroman, traded to the Mets before the new single-season trade deadline.

But since Leake has never won a Gold Glove before, I can’t exactly call his winning it this year a legacy pick. Greinke had five Gold Gloves entering this year, and he certainly earned his Glove this year.

The defensive index of the Society for American Baseball Research (fair disclosure: I’m a member and have had work published by them in the recent past) was used in Gold Glove voting for the first time this year, applied to 25 percent of the vote with Show managers and coaches doing the rest.

According to that SABR index, the absolute best Gold Glove qualifiers in the leagues with the leather and arms were:

NL—C: Realmuto. 1B: Christian Walker. 2B: Wong. 3B: Arenado: SS: Ahmed. LF: Peralta. CF: Robles. RF: Bellinger. P: Max Fried. Note that three SDI champions (Walker, Robles, Fried) didn’t win Gold Gloves.

AL—C: Perez. 1B: Olson. 2B: Sanchez. 3B: Chapman. SS: Simmons. LF: Grossman. CF: Kiermaier. RF: Betts. P: Tie between Leake and Lucas Giolito. Note that three SDI champions here (Simmons, Grossman, Giolito) didn’t win Gold Gloves, either.

Let the debates begin. Or continue, depending. And you can take a little more active part in it: fans get to vote for the Platinum Glove winner, which Rawlings began in 2011. The bad news: you can only vote for someone in each league who actually won one of this year’s Gold Gloves. You can’t vote for the guy who should have won the Gold Glove but didn’t.

That said, my own Platinum Glove picks would be Roberto Perez and Nick Ahmed. Perez led all American League Gold Glove eligibles with a 17.0 SDI rating and Ahmed led the National League Gold Glove eligibles with a 15.7. That looks like platinum work to me.