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Blue Jays’ Matt Chapman just shy of another Golden Glove


Toronto Blue Jays star third baseman missed his fifth Golden Glove award but did he deserve to win? (Getty Pictures)

Major League Baseball handed out the Golden Glove awards (given to the best fielder in each position) on Tuesday, and Toronto Blue Jays fans were pleasantly surprised but also moderately upset by the results.

On the one hand, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. secured the Golden Gloves at first base, preventing the unlikely transition from an initially below-average third baseman to a top-tier defender.

But opposite the diamond, in the hot corner, some people feel that Baltimore Orioles third baseman Ramon Urías is not as deserving as Matt Chapman, for example. Shooter Ross Stripling, Chapman’s teammate in Toronto in 2022, expressed disappointment with the results.

So was Stripling right? Did Chapman steal his fourth Golden Glove? Let’s have a look.

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From the data alone it’s clear, at least in moderation, that Chapman’s 2022 season isn’t good enough to deserve the Golden Gloves. He was ranked closer to the average third baseman in defensive runs saved (DRS) and above-average exits (OAA) compared to the best in the league.

In 2022, Urías has been at the top of these two key categories, despite playing just 118 games for the AL Gold Glove-winning third baseman since Wade Boggs won the award with just 97 games played during the lockout. – shortened 1994 season.

eye test

After seeing Chapman regularly doing pre-game warm-ups, I can say that he is one of a kind. Basically, he’s a breeder. The California native practices a crouched ready stance that keeps his frame solid, and uses a repeatable, exaggerated throwing motion that makes his first-base shots feature four-stitch reverses. Very rarely, if ever, you would see a Chapman tail shot home from the first goal line.

Because Chapman is so athletic, his range is one of his biggest assets. He can cover the ground by moving to the left, often closing their game with dramatic diving blades. Still, he has struggled at times this season in games towards the third base line. These were the hardest games a third baseman could make, but that didn’t stop him from repeating the same game over and over.

After a particularly intense pre-game field session this season, during which Chapman punches these games backhand from the back of the bag (and apparently doesn’t live up to his own high standards), I witnessed the 29-year-old nervously kick his glove. in the air, then toss a baseball to the 500-level seats in the left field. He is an uncompromising competitor.

But it’s not just the mechanics that make Chapman great this season. His on-court chatter, bump visits, and ability to short stop and doubles made a huge impact on the Blue Jays’ court.

I found Chapman overcame some early hiccups to fit in with the Rogers Center home, and visually I rate it as a Golden Glove caliber season.

Metrics

In 2019, Chapman put in 28 DRS and 15 OAA. Why were their numbers so low in 2022?

Let’s use OAA, a range-based defense metric calculated by Statcast since databases are the most accessible. This year, the system gave him the lowest defensive rank of his career.

One of the biggest differences in Chapman’s defensive profile this year was how often he played “shortstop.” Statcast noted that Chapman tried 108 games in a short time with a 67 percent success rate, which is good for 0 OAA. For the first time in his career, Chapman technically recorded four replays in the second stage; where Statcast measured the keystone’s 75 percent success rate as 17 percent lower than the expected success rate, thus giving it a minus-1 OAA.

As we know, the Blue Jays changed their defense 50.3 percent of the time, the third-highest score in baseball. It seems like Toronto didn’t put in the above-average plays he would normally do at third base when Toronto swept Chapman away from his hot corner scenic spot. And because he was out of position frequently, these non-third-base numbers drove his overall OAA down.

Of course, that doesn’t answer why Chapman has produced only 2 OAAs this season, especially at third base. You can examine many theories for this. Chapman saw significantly less defensive chances in offensive play, which has always been his strength, according to Statcast. Perhaps the rest of the league has raised the bar this season by defending better, which is defined as “average”. We can continue.

Decision

No matter how fuzzy it is, it’s hard not to default the defensive numbers. Sabermetrics ranks Urías as a decidedly superior defender, despite making eight errors in 118 games and Chapman making five in 155 games.

My biggest complaint isn’t that Chapman missed his fourth Golden Glove; I think it’s more about why Statcast suddenly devalued their defense. I think the constant change of Blue Jays has pushed Chapman too far and forced him to attack games outside of his comfort zone.

In the end, Chapman was undoubtedly Toronto’s defensive MVP, and his contributions were a huge factor in the club’s post-season run. Even if he’s not known for the Golden Gloves, that means something.

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