Discussing why Jordy Mercer Should or Should not Win the Gold Glove Award

Discussing the battle for a gold glove at shortstop in the National League


Jordy Mercer is often overlooked by fans and voters outside of Pittsburgh. This may have something to do with his seemingly lack of offense. Generally speaking, or so it has been in the past, players who win a gold glove often excel in the batter’s box, as well. Certainly, Mercer isn’t at the bottom of the league in offensive production (.259/.332/.379) with 53 RBI and 10 home runs, but he’s by no means an offensive juggernaut. With that said, the gold glove award should not be based on looking at who has the highest offensive output first, and then reviewing his defensive statistics second. That seems backwards. The player in question should probably not dwell at the bottom of the league in offense, but if he’s got the defensive prowess, then he’s got it and should be reviewed during the gold glove selection process.

If you break down the numbers, there are a few things that immediately stand out in the traditional sense in regard to Jordy Mercer.

Firstly, Mercer has had more chances at shortstop than anyone else in the National League (to this point in the season) with 580, although Brandon Crawford is hot on his heels with 578. But in those 580 chances, Mercer has only committed eight errors, leaving him with a fielding percentage of .986, which is 3rd only to Freddy Galvis and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera, however, isn’t in consideration because he’s had over 100 fewer chances than both Galvis and Mercer. Galvis has also had less chances (566) than Mercer, albeit not by much. Mercer has also turned 89 double plays, which is second only to Danny Espinosa of Washington. Of course, double plays aren’t nearly as big of a concern for the voting committee as some of the other stats.

To move into a more analytical aspect of the position, Jordy Mercer has the 3rd highest range factor in the National League at shortstop, with an RF of 4.40. The only two higher are Jonathan Villar (4.65) and Zack Cozart (4.58). Range Factor is determined by following equation:

9(putouts +assists)/games played

Range factor is a simple formula, but is important in determining how instrumental a player is in terms of how often they are utilized to record an out, rather than operating solely on the premise of their talent based on how often they field the ball cleanly (i.e., fielding percentage).

Additionally, Mercer’s Range Factor and Fielding Percentage both rank higher than the league average.

Of course, there is some downside to Jordy Mercer. It’s been stated that Mercer can’t make the same impressive plays that others make, like Brandon Crawford. If you look at the advanced sabermetric statistics, then the conclusion should possibly be made that Mercer shouldn’t be the winner. For example, both Crawford and Galvis have significantly better UZR’s over Mercer.

According to Fangraphs, Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is a sabermetrics statistic used to measure fielding. It compares the event that actually happened (hit/out/error) to data on similarly hit balls in the past to determine how much better or worse the fielder did than the “average” player. UZR divides a baseball field into multiple zones and assigns individual fielders responsibility for those zones.

The field is divided as such:


The “I” position is where shortstops generally play, and every subsequent letter to the left or right of the shortstop is the range that the shortstop would need to cover. Of course, some guys get farther on the field than others. Everything is quantified to what’s average with regard to the other players in the league. The chart reads as follows:

UZR Chart:

  1. Gold Glove +15
  2. Great +10
  3. Above Average +5
  4. Average 0
  5. Below Average -5
  6. Poor -10
  7. Awful -15

Brandon Crawford’s UZR: 16.7; Fredd Gavis’ UZR: 10.4; Jordy Mercer’s UZR: -8.9

It’s clear that Crawford and Galvis are performing well above average, and that means they make more challenging plays than everyone else, including (by a substantial amount) Mercer.

Another good indicator of defensive ability with regard to his peers is the statistic DRS (defensive runs saved). DRS is broken into the same chart as UZR.

Brandon Crawford’s DRS: 17; Freddy Galvis’ DRS: 2; Jordy Mercer’s DRS: -8. Again, a similar principle applies to DRS as does to UZR.

What it comes down to is whether or not you prefer the sabermetrics measurement to defensive statistics, or the tried-and-true measurement that only indicates routine reliability. Often, people stay on the side of traditionalism rather than the new-age measurement of a player’s ability. If the former is true, then it bodes well for Jordy Mercer. If not, then he could be in some trouble.

Source(s): Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, MLB.com

Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images North America, 2013)

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