Devil’s Advocate: Jon Jay vs The Gold Glove

by on September 1, 2012 · 0 comments

Jon Jay plays center field with the same fearless disrespect for inertia and personal safety that Jim Edmonds had when he played the same position years ago.  Maybe that’s why so many fans in St. Louis believe Jon Jay deserves a Gold Glove award this year.  Maybe he does, and maybe he doesn’t.  Carefully consider both sides of the argument and decide for yourself.

All rise in the matter of “Jon Jay vs The Gold Glove”.  Less-than-supreme court is now in session with the not-so-honorable Dennis Lawson presiding.

The case for Jon Jay pretty much consists of quite possibly the longest highlight reel of over-the-shoulder catches, diving grabs, leaping snags, and wall crashes we’ve seen in a while.  Honestly, Jay spends more time on a wall than a Fathead, and he seems to always track down the round leather object hurtling through space and time.  He’s the irresistible force to the outfield wall’s immoveable object, and the gloved force has won pretty much every battle.

He currently ranks 3rd in the NL in range factor per game, 1st in fielding percentage at 1.000, and 2nd in range factor per 9 innings.  Sure, fielding percentage gets discounted due to official scorer’s negligence, but 219 errorless chances in CF still sounds pretty impressive.  Sure, Jay only has 1 assist to his credit, but that’s what you get when you save your pitcher from doubles in the gap and extra base hits off the wall.  You try throwing out an advancing runner after you’ve sprinted 100 feet directly at a looming wall and slammed your body against it.  Besides, assists are overrated.  If you make a spectacular diving grab with the bases loaded and 2 outs, you don’t have a chance to pick up an assist, but you do get your pitcher out of  a tight spot.  Which matters more?

Besides, it’s no coincidence that Jay’s name has entered the Gold Glove conversation this year.  He’s 27, and Jim Edmonds happened to win his first Gold Glove at… guessed it, 27.

Devil’s Advocate: 

Jay seems like a very affable fellow, and he certainly has a knack for the spectacular play, but he’s no Jimmy Ballgame.  Edmonds simply covered more ground in less time, and he didn’t let walls get in the way.  He either plowed through the wall or went over the top.  He was the proverbial bull in a china store, and his single-minded focus on making the round projectile settle into his mitt was second to none.  Edmonds could not only fetch, but he could launch as well.  The year he won his first Gold Glove, he finished the season with 9 assists which is only 9x what Jay has now.  As a matter of fact, Edmonds actually had 4 seasons in which he finished with 10 outfield assists or more.  Jay has a total of 10 outfield assists for his entire career.  Forget Edmonds and think a bit more rationally.

In all fairness, comparing Jay to his contemporaries makes more sense, because his competition for the award can be seen on any given night.  Compared to Michael Bourn, Chris Young, or Cameron Maybin, Jay seems a bit lacking in a few departments.  Bourn and Young both have better arms.  Bourn displays more range – by a lot.  Jay ranks 3rd behind Bourn and Young in UZR and UZR/150.  Advanced statistics support the argument that Jay deserves to be in the conversation.  As for winning it?  I don’t think so.  The prime directive for defense begins and ends with saving runs.  In terms of defensive runs saved, nobody in the NL CF category comes close to the 20 runs saved by Bourn.  Jay lands in a tie for 2nd with Maybin with 6.  You can certainly argue that Jay deserves recognition as a finalist along with Bourn and either Maybin or Young, but the data does not support the argument that Jay deserves to win.

However, that doesn’t mean his defensive value isn’t greatly appreciated.  Just the fact that fans clamor for others to pay attention to Jay’s defensive prowess means a lot.  A movement on behalf of a player’s defensive worth can only be created by people who appreciate the subtleties of defensive value.  Maybe the members of Cardinal Nation equate that to hustle and grit, and certainly that implies no disrespect at all.  It’s simply heartening to see that fans notice a player improving under their watchful eyes.

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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