The YES Network put out the following Tweet on Thursday:
Careful readers will note that this became our Tweet of the Day soon after. Today the topic deserves a bit more scrutiny.
Let’s get the easy part of the tweet out of the way quickly. Gio Urshela is, of course, a premier defensive third baseman. Fans see him making excellent defensive plays day after day. Urshela has always been known as a plus defender. It was his defense that brought him to the big leagues. The hitting came later. Gio Urshela would be a worthy winner of the Gold Glove Award.
But, Clint Frazier?
Clint Frazier is a finalist for a Gold Glove.
How do they come up with things like this?
As a defender, it is usually said of Clint Frazier that he has a lot of potential as a hitter. When people talk about Clint Frazier’s abilities, they, most often, remark about his batting skills. His defense has always been questioned – especially the last few years.
I’ve always been a Clint Frazier supporter. I like him as a player. I want him to be a star. I think he has a great future and I hope he lives up to it. (And maybe one day he will.) But I don’t think anyone ever thought he’d be a Gold Glove candidate – especially so soon, and especially after this season.
In 2020, Clint Frazier played in just 39 games. He is a Gold Glove finalist after appearing in only 65% of his team’s games. How does that make sense?
But it’s worse than that. Five times in 2020, Clint Frazier was the Yankees’ designated hitter. He played in the outfield in just 34 games. The man is a Gold Glove finalist after appearing in just 56.6% of his team’s games in the outfield. Clint Frazier has been nominated to win an award for playing a defensive position that his own team kept him from playing in more than 43% of their games.
Further, Frazier played only 28 games (his most of any position) in right field, which, one would have to assume is where he played his best defense. Yes. That’s just 46.6% of all the Yankees games that were played in 2020. In more than half of the Yankees’ games this year, they felt they were better off with Clint Frazier not playing the position for which he was nominated for a Gold Glove.
I feel like I am piling on, but, the nomination for the award just makes no sense. I hope Clint Frazier wins a ton of Gold Glove Awards in his career, but he certainly does not seem to deserve one in 2020. How can a guy be a Gold Glover when his own team players the majority of their games without that player in his potential Gold Glove position?
Now, in baseball history, there have been many times when great players, players with long histories of greatness have won various awards that they didn’t deserve. At times, some of the awards that have been handed out have seemed to be more honorary than earned in a particular season, but that standard also doesn’t apply to Clint Frazier. He has not (yet) even established himself as an every day player.
Knowing all of the facts, I figured that Frazier must have put up some amazing defensive numbers in 2020 that escaped my notice. I figured that his defense must have been so off-the-charts spectacular that the numbers would show that he deserves this honor.
But they don’t.
One aspect of outfield defense that captures people’s attention is a great throwing arm. Highlight reels become cluttered with examples of outfielders gunning out runners on the bases with their rifle arms. Knowing how highlights can sometimes create a narrative of their own, I looked up how many outfield assists Clint Frazier had in 2020. I figured there had to be a bunch. If he threw out a lot of runners on the base paths, that might create the impression that he was great defensively and make it seem that he’d deserve a Gold Glove.
But, in 2020, Clint Frazier had just one outfield assist. One.
Clint Frazier’s outfield assist in 2020 came in his fourth game of the year – on August 18 in Yankee Stadium. On that day, the Yankees were playing the Tampa Bay Rays. In that game, Michael Perez of the Rays led off the top of the seventh inning. He drove the ball to right field and attempted to stretch his hit to a double. Frazier threw him out on a close play (that was challenged by the Rays) at second base. That play, an outfield assist by the right fielder getting the runner out at second base, had no bearing on the final score of the game. When Perez hit the ball, his team was winning 6-3. When the game ended, the final score was 6-3. Clint Frazier couldn’t be a finalist for the Gold Glove based on the sum total of his work in throwing out base runners. That play was the sum total of all his outfield assists in 2020.
The only other place to look, then, was Frazier’s dWAR number. I figured that number had to be amazing.
In 2020, Clint Frazier’s dWAR was 0.0. He didn’t subtract nor did he add any value as a defender. Period.
In sum, I couldn’t find any reason why Clint Frazier is a finalist for this award. Clint Frazier is a possible future star. Clint Frazier might be a great hitter as soon as 2021. Clint Frazier might even become an excellent defender, even if he isn’t one yet (his lifetime dWAR is -1.5).
I hope he becomes great. I am rooting for Clint Frazier and have been since the Yankees acquired him in 2016, but Clint Frazier’s nomination as a finalist for a 2020 Gold Glove makes no sense at all.