The Tuesday Discussion: Did Volpe Deserve the Gold Glove?
by SSTN Admin
November 7, 2023
This week we asked our writers:
In your opinion, did Anthony Volpe deserve to be the Gold Glove winner at shortstop?
Here are their replies:
Ethan Semendinger - Yes! I wrote about this in a longer post yesterday, but, in sum, my answer is yes.
Ed Botti - Without digging into the analytics and stats that most people never heard of or understand, Yes. Anthony Volpe earned his Gold Glove.
From my perspective watching him play in person in both the minors and in MLB there are things and movements that only the eye can pick up, and are not recorded on a spreadsheet -- because they cannot be.
He plays his position with great quickness, poise and confidence, but is always in complete control of his body and mechanics. Perfect muscle memory. Because of that, he makes plays appear to be easy and routine, that are actually difficult.
He anticipates balls being hit as well as I have seen and because of his baseball IQ, he is in a better position than many other shortstops to make the play, which helps with his range, especially in a post shift MLB defensive positioning alignment.
His footwork is textbook, and very rarely did he ever get his feet crossed up (I can remember 1 single play last August), which also helps out with his range because he is able to cut down the angles and get rid of the ball very quickly.
As I mentioned, he releases the ball extremely quick and smooth from the same arm slot, which makes up for any deficiency people may think they see with his arm strength, which is more than that which is needed. We all saw him cut balls off in left field and make perfect and strong throws to the plate.
Because of his IQ, footwork and anticipation, he can get overlooked by many fans, but there was not a play he could not make, and he plays almost every single day.
Obviously, the voters (other managers and coaches) in MLB did not overlook those abilities.
Sorry conspiracy theorists, there is no conspiracy here. The Kid can flat out play shortstop!
He also has a distinctive play he makes going to his right into shallow left field on balls in the hole with a runner on second. He slides down on his right knee, catches the ball in the grass and springs up (or throws from his knees) and gets the put out at third base. He makes that play better than his contemporaries. Why? The angle and anticipation combined with muscle memory. NOT EASY TO DO, rarely spoken of.
If he cuts down his “new swing” (he had a different swing last season then he did in AA and AAA in 2022 - IMO) his batting average will rise as his strikeouts decrease.
Congrats to Anthony. You earned it!
Paul Semendinger - I guess so. I think it's great he won it - good for him. Fielding metrics seem to vary from one supposed reliable stat to another. Many of these stats say he did well. Again, I don't worry too much about things like the Gold Glove Award (except when I want to argue that Graig Nettles deserved a few more than he earned). In the end, it's great when the Yankees have players earning major awards.
Mike Whiteman - I do think Anthony Volpe deserved the Gold Glove. The first place I look to when trying to evaluate fielders is the SABR Defensive Index (SDI), and he’s at the top of the list. So, I think “he’s legit”. To be fair, I don't think the competition was as stiff as year’s past, as this doesn't look like a time of glory days for shortstops.
In the end though, this is his award and it can’t be taken away. Congrats to Volpe. If he can improve his hitting, he could be a very good shortstop for a long time.
Cary Greene - Personally I think any Yankee that played more than 150 games deserves a trophy and a bonus, so I'm fine with Volpe beating out Wander Franco (who only played 109 games) and all other AL shortstops, the likes of which were Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, enroute to winning a Gold Glove!
Did Volpe deserve the honor? I suppose it depends on who you ask and what metric is truly the right one to use when quantifying a player’s overall defensive value. Is Volpe the best defensive shortstop in the American League. No, he is not, that distinction pretty clearly belongs to Wander Franco, but Volpe logged a full season.
No matter which metrics were used, the results of the Gold Glove voting are pretty hard to argue with. Here’s a chart that frames the top shortstops in the American League this past season:
As you can see, it seems that Fielding Bible’s DRS is the one stat that seems to be in vogue these days with those who vote on defensive awards. Fielding Bible, however Stat Cast’s Outs Above Average is another one that most voters absolutely look at.
Franco is clearly a better overall defensive shortstop and I imagine if he can stay healthy, he’ll rack up a number of future Gold Gloves. It’s fairly clear that he’s on an elite level, where as Volpe is simply a very good overall defender.
Take nothing away from Volpe however, he mans his zone at short with terrific overall positioning and by all accounts, he’s a master at a young age of using smart angles so that he can make up for his relatively weak throwing arm.
I’m happy for Volpe and based on the fact that he played a full season at a premium position and given the fact that he led the all important DRS category among qualified American League Shortstops, who can argue that he didn’t deserve the American League Gold Glove. Good for him!
Tim Kabel - The way I look at things is fairly simple. If the people who vote for the award chose, Volpe, then he deserves it. He had a fine year defensively, and is figuring things out offensively. Although many people feel that Oswald Peraza is superior defensively at shortstop, I don’t think there’s any way that Volpe could be moved now.
Andy Singer - I think it depends on what perspective you take when looking at the Gold Glove voting. Do I think that Anthony Volpe was the best defensive shortstop in the American League in 2023? No, I don't. That honor was pretty clearly a three horse race: Bobby Witt Jr., Wander Franco, and Javy Baez. Wander Franco was not going to win the award for reasons that we don't have to discuss here. Witt Jr. played for a truly awful Kansas City team that was out of it after the first game of the season. Fair or not, the voters were never going to take Witt Jr.'s candidacy seriously. Baez was so terrible on the other side of the ball that given his profile, I think the perception persisted that he was terrible everywhere. Even if I consider Witt Jr. versus Franco and Baez in a vacuum, I would have given the award to Witt Jr. The eye test told me he was fantastic, and he was at the top or near the top of every publicly available defensive metric. I also think his development story will eventually look familiar to Yankee fans as it pertains to Anthony Volpe's future, but that's a discussion for another day.
However, none of those guys were finalists. The finalists were Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Anthony Volpe. Correa and Seager have better arms, but neither have Volpe's range, and a wide range of statistics say that both of those guys gave back more value with their lack of range in the first year limiting the shift (as you might recall, I predicted this for both players this year) than Volpe did with his arm. Given the choice between those three, I think Volpe did deserve the Gold Glove at SS, and I also do believe he is a well above-average shortstop, even with a below-average arm.
I'm thrilled for Volpe, and I think he was a deserving candidate, even if he wasn't the best defensive shortstop in the AL in a vacuum.