Third baseman Manny Machado, the Orioles’ only American League Gold Glove Award finalist this season, was edged for the award by the Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria on Tuesday night.
Machado won the Gold Glove in 2013 and 2015, also winning the AL Platinum Glove Award — given to the league’s top overall defensive player — in 2013.
The three finalists for this year’s AL award at third base were Longoria, Machado and the Cleveland Indians’ José Ramírez. Longoria won the award for the third time in his career, and his first since 2010.
The Gold Glove is selected by a vote of major league managers and coaches — which accounts for 75 percent of the vote — along with a statistical equivalent, the SABR Defensive Index (the remaining 25 percent), which compiles “five different defensive data sources and includes factors that rate the defenders arm strength and accuracy, range and his sure-handedness, along with the number of excellent and poor fielding plays he makes.”
Defense has been a staple of the Orioles’ success under manager Buck Showalter, and after recording five straight seasons with at least one Gold Glove winner from 2011 to 2015 — the team received the award 12 times over that span — the Orioles have gone winless in back-to-back seasons.
The Orioles’ defensive struggles this season were no secret. As a team, the Orioles ranked tied for 20th in defensive runs saved (minus-17), but Machado recorded six defensive runs saved, which ranked him third among AL third baseman, trailing Longoria (11) and Chicago White Sox/New York Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier (10).
Machado also trailed Longoria in RZR (revised zone rating), which measures the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out, and UZR/150, which measures ultimate zone rating, or the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games.
Longoria’s Rays led the majors with 51 defensive runs saved.
But Machado converted more difficult plays, according to Inside Edge Fielding data. Inside Edge breaks down plays into the percentage of likelihood they will be converted by a fielder.
On plays that would be considered a “remote” chance of being made (plays converted just 1-10 percent of the time), Machado made 4.2 percent, the highest rate of qualified third baseman. And on plays “unlikely” to be made by defenders (10-40 percent), Machado converted 62.5 percent, also the best among qualifying third baseman.
Longoria made 3.6 percent of “remote” plays and just 16.7 percent of plays categorized as “unlikely” to be made.
While this year wasn’t Machado’s best defensive season — it will be difficult to top his 2013 season, in which he recorded 35 defensive runs saved — it still furthered his reputation as one of the game’s top overall players as he nears free agency after next season. Machado rebounded from a rough first half to post his third straight 30-homer season.