I'm not one to address a lot of rumors on this site but when reputable sources start reporting them, I feel the need to at least throw some cold water in the general direction.
Rumor has it that Oriole CF Adam Jones will be awarded his first Gold Glove early this week. How do we know this? His brother congratulated him on his MySpace page for the award. Flimsy evidence that everybody seems to be running with. However, there is a ton of evidence to the contrary.
What follows is a look at how Gold Gloves are awarded and how Jones stands up to each set of criteria. This is not an analysis on whether Jones deserves the award or not. I think most avid baseball fans realize that the award does not always go to the most deserving player. (The fact that Derek Jeter owns more Gold Gloves than Cal Ripken, Jr. is a case in point.) I looked at AL outfield award winners from the last 20 years for comparison.
1. Gold Gloves are Awarded on Reputation
The winners are voted for by major league managers and coaches. Managers are not allowed to vote for their own players. This is one of the factors that contribute to players continuing to get a Gold Glove even as their skills in the field decline. If a player has won 4 straight awards, he is likely to be written in again by many voters simply because they "know he's a great fielder". Not necessarily the best but a great fielder.
Jones faces three incumbents in the AL: Torii Hunter, Ichiro Suzuki and Grady Sizemore. Hunter and Suzuki have each won for 8 straight seasons. Sizemore for 2. Was Jones' defense really so spectacular that he unseats one of these three? I don't think so.
But even if you dropped Sizemore (he was hurt for much of 2009), there are other reps to overcome. Would Jones be able to elbow aside Carl Crawford, an AL outfielder with a terrific and deserved defensive reputation? Or Franklin Gutierrez? Or BJ Upton? Or Curtis Granderson? All these guys have a longer track record and a perception that they are great defenders. And all are at least as good as Jones was in 2009.
To paraphrase The Fresh Prince, "Jones is only 23, he don't have a rep yet."
2. Gold Gloves are Influenced by Offense As Much As Defense
Sad but true, many Gold Gloves are given in part because a player's bat gets them some attention. First time award winners often have eye-popping stats at the plate.
Kenny Lofton hits .325 and steals 70 bases in '93. Jay Buhner hits 44 homers in '95. Shawn Green hits 42 homers in 1999. Darin Erstad hit's .355 in 2000. Some of these players were worthy Gold Glovers, some of them weren't. But their first wins all coincided with great offensive years.
Did Jones have a great offensive year? No. He made strides and was a good hitter but he wasn't an elite offensive force.
It works the opposite way too sometimes. But Ichiro hit .352 this season and Hunter had the best offensive season of his career. They are unlikely to be unseated as Gold Glovers. Sizemore
had a down year but his OPS was still better than Jones. Again, Sizemore looks to be the weak link at this point but Jones doesn't have the eye-popping stats that could unseat an entrenched winner.
3. The Rule of 120
No AL outfielder in the last 20 years has won his first Gold Glove while playing less than 120 games. It's rare that it has happened at all, at least in a non-strike year. Hunter won a Gold glove in '05 playing 98. Griffey won it in '95 playing in 72. But these were "rep" awards.
Jones only played in 119 games. I'm sure many managers and coaches didn't even see him this season during the stretches that he was injured. He simply didn't play enough to make a big impression.
4. If Voters Look at Fielding Stats at All, They Look at "Traditional" Stats
Voters tend to look at basic fielding stats like errors and fielding percentage, if they look at all. Jones' .986 fielding percentage is near the bottom of regular AL centerfielders. There are not many outfielders who can top 5 errors either...and Jones only played 118 games in the field.
Nothing from the basic stats (or the advanced stats for that matter) make Jones stand out. If you were looking at these basic stats, David DeJesus would have to be a strong candidate (and he may be one anyway).
So, Adam Jones is going to unseat incumbent Gold glove winners, overcome other veteran outfielders with good defensive reputations and win his first Gold Glove with a "meh" offensive season and a "meh" season with the glove, all the while playing less than 75% of the season on a small market losing team? Add to this the fact that to the "eye" and the advanced defensive metrics, Jones did not always look great in the field.
Is it impossible for Jones to win? No. Is he deserving? Probably not. Is he likely to win? Absolutely not. It just doesn't make sense, regardless of what a guy on MySpace claims.