The hardest part of a player winning the Gold Glove Award seems to have less to do with his actual fielding statistics than it does convincing the voters he’s more deserving than the incumbent.
Historically, at least, that’s been the pattern of the voters, comprised of the league’s managers and coaches who, more often than not, are comfortable sticking with past award winners in favor of crowning a new one Gold Glove worthy.
That’s why Brandon Phillips, the 2011 NL Gold Glove Award winner at second base, is the only thing standing in the way of Darwin Barney winning his first, and much deserved, Rawlings Gold Glove Award this season (I’ll touch on the statistical comparison a bit later).
Now, that’s not to say Phillips or any Gold Glove winners of the past shouldn’t have won in consecutive seasons. But in researching the history of Gold Glove Award winners I confirmed it’s nearly a given that once a player wins gold, he’ll almost certainly win it again.
In Barney’s case, I researched the Gold Glove Award winners at second base dating back to 1973 when Joe Morgan won his first of five consecutive Gold Gloves.
Davey Lopes eventually snatched the award away from Morgan in 1978 only to be outdone by Manny Trillo the following season, who in turn won the award in three out of the next four seasons.
In 1983 it was Ryno’s turn. He won nine consecutive Gold Gloves before Jose Lind broke the streak in 1992.
Robby Thompson earned the honors in 1993, then Craig Biggio arrived to win four consecutive Gold Gloves.
Bret Boone stole the award away from Biggio in 1998, then relented to Pokey Reese in 1999, who won again in 2000.
In 2001 Fernando Vina won his first of two consecutive Gold Gloves. Louis Castillo followed by winning three straight.
Orlando Hudson earned the glove in 2006, and again in three out of the next four seasons. His run was interrupted by none other than, Brandon Phillips, who won in 2008.
Phillips has since won the Gold Glove in three out of the last four seasons, including the last two years. The only player to break his run? Not surprisingly, the O-Dog in 2009.
The repetitive pattern is obviously a concern in Barney’s case, even though statistically he’s outperformed all National League second baseman, and most notably, Brandon Phillips.
Darwin, when compared to Phillips, has played in five more games, has had 61 more total chances, made 51 more put-outs, has more assists and committed three fewer errors (1) than Phillips (4).
Barney’s .998 fielding percentage is also tops in the National League, as is his 4.67 Range Factor. Highlight-reel plays? He has those, too.
What more do the managers and coaches need to see? And what more could Barney possibly do statistically to win gold–other than having won the award last year?
It’s a crime if Barney doesn’t take home the award this season. He is, by all accounts, most deserving.
But, if he does win…well, chances are he’s likely on his way to winning the first of many more Gold Gloves to come.