Third baseman Manny Machado, the Orioles' only Gold Glove award finalist, is without question one of the best defensive players in baseball, but was his 2015 season good enough to win his second career Gold Glove?
Machado, 23, won his first Gold Glove in 2013, the year he also received the American League Platinum Glove Award, given to the league's top overall defender.
There wasn't much doubt two years ago about whether Machado was deserving of the Gold Glove. Whether Machado will win this year's award, which a combination of managers, coaches and a sabermetric component will decide, isn't a cinch.
He faces tough competition in four-time winner Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria, a two-time winner.
Beltre is considered one of the best defensive players in the game, and Longoria also has a solid reputation. A look at their general defensive statistics and deeper sabermetric analytics shows no clear edge.
Longoria has the best fielding percentage (.976) and committed the fewest errors (nine) among the finalists. Beltre has the best Defensive Wins Above Replacement (2.3) and the most defensive runs saved (18). Machado has the best range factor per nine innings (3.09).
Machado committed a career-high 19 errors at third base this season, second most among AL third basemen, but that really doesn't show the kind of season Machado had defensively. While fielding percentage used to be the primary gauge of a defender's play, there are now several more statistical layers in defensive evaluations. That's also why the majority of the vote for the Gold Glove is decided by managers and coaches who watch the game closely.
Voting by managers and major league coaches, who aren't allowed to vote for their own players, accounts for 75 percent of the total. Offensive production isn't supposed to factor into their decision making.
The remaining 25 percent comes from the SABR Defensive Index, a combination of data from five sources that produces the number of defensive runs saved by a player at his position. Factors considered in the data include arm strength and accuracy, range and sure-handedness, and the number of plays deemed "excellent" and "poor" that a defender makes.
While Machado was a rock at third base this season and has made a habit of making difficult plays look easy, Beltre will be tough to beat. His Defensive WAR was fourth best among all AL defenders; Machado was sixth. Beltre also was first in defensive runs saved, which is the one stat that might be weighed most heavily by the sabermetric crowd.
Still, it wouldn't surprise me if Machado won. Reputation still goes a long way, and Machado's 2013 season placed him on the short list of baseball's elite defenders. And while he wasn't as good defensively as he was two years ago, it might be good enough to win his second Gold Glove.
We will find out Nov. 10.