Kyle Seager's 2014 will probably be remembered as the year he Figured It All Out, making his first All-Star appearance, first 5+ fWAR rating, and posting career highs in just about every other offensive category you can find in a quick stats page gander. All that also means he is actually in the running for his first-ever Gold Glove award, as well, because that's how this thing works.
Now of course, we all know the silliness of an award meant to highlight defensive prowess being influenced by hitting and name recognition. Or that there is a fancy thing called math that can actually tell you who the best defender in baseball is, and it can only account for 25% of anyone's award eligibility. As you read this, you're probably rolling your eyes because *looks down at notes written on palm* who gives a shit about awards anyway this is just dumb media attention detracting from the game itself.
But Kyle Seager would probably be excited about getting a Gold Glove, and even if you think awards are dumb, you may actually feel a slight tinge of emotion somewhere deep within your boneless exterior if he gets handed that goofy trophy here in a couple of weeks. Yes, it doesn't matter. Yes, we've all been here before. Yes, the Gold Glove award is mostly a sham designed by a sales manager of a corporation designed to increase product visibility. No, you shouldn't really care. But damn it, Kyle Seager needs--nay, deserves--to get one of these. So is it going to happen?
Just like the Mariners 2014 season, Seager's chances for the award are due in part to injuries suffered by the expected victor: Manny Machado's 82-game season puts him out of eligibility to win his second consecutive award. This leaves us with Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager, and maybe Adrian Beltre.
In a recent article over at the Tacoma News Tribune, Bob Dutton, who as access to these kinds of things, noted that the Fielding Bible has calculated Seager's arm as the best in the American League, with a 96.6% "Good Throw" rate, only requiring 8 "good plays" by a first baseman over his 267 tosses to the bag. This was a little eye opening, because like his bat, Seager seems to be the model of consistency in the field--never attracting too much attention and just getting the job done, quietly. Which, of course, means some intern will be looking over tape for the award ceremony, unable to find good TV, and they'll give it to Donaldson instead.
But what about the other statistics? Fangraphs UZR rating gives Donaldson an edge with 15.5 runs saved to Seager's 10.6. This, by Fangraph's own arbitrary ranking, makes the whole thing pretty clear:
Seager led all other qualifying third baseman in fielding percentage this season, posting a .981 to Donaldson's .952. Fielding percentage is, of course, context-less. But defense is still a highly malleable category ripe for ambiguity, and any one statistic never seems to be enough to fully understand what's going on. Fielding percentage may be too simple, and UZR is notorious for being wonky--for Seager leads Donaldson in total runs saved (rTOT) with 24 to 21. So yes, the numbers skew toward Donaldson a bit, but there is certainly enough ambiguity to make the case for Seager as well.
Nobody wins Gold Gloves simply based on their defensive ability. Jeter had five, and his defensive replacement last year had none. But what Seager has in his court is that neither he nor Donaldson are household names, and as dumb as that sentence is, it honestly is going to go a long ways in deciding this whole thing. In addition, our favorite detesticled third baseman of yore, himself the recipient of four Gold Gloves, is both getting too old and on a team that nobody really wants to talk about right now. It seems to be a two-man race.
Here, though, is the biggest problem:
Kyle Seager is in the running for a Gold Glove because he is a blue-collar guy with a little pop in his bat that can do this:
And Josh Donaldson is in the running for a Gold Glove because he is a baseball player with a mohawk that can do this:
No single award loss can take away the fact that Seager had the best season of what should be a long, successful career on a Seattle club that will assuredly lock him up to a multi-year deal here pretty soon. But Kyle Seager probably isn't going to win the Gold Glove this year. Which is fine, because if anything, this is just a microcosm of the entire 2014 season--unpredictably surprising success lasting throughout a long and daunting season, only to have the rug pulled out from under on the last day by some guy in an Oakland Athletics uniform.
Kyle Seager is going to win a gold glove, unless he doesn't. And since he can't grow his receding hair into a made-for-television mohawk, he's probably going to head back home to North Carolina after this as the eternal underdog, hiding out in the shadows and waiting to make his move next year. Which is just the way we like him.