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The Case for Kyle Seager, Gold Glover

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Kyle Seager is a defensive wizard.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sure you’ve seen the article from FanGraphs floating around the internet recently. The one where August Fagerstrom awards Kyle Seager a Gold Glove based on a combined evaluation using three advanced defensive metrics. You might also know that Kyle Seager led all American League third basemen in errors this season. That doesn’t line up. Was Seager an elite defensive player who simply made too many mistakes?

In the eyes of many, particularly those unfamiliar with advanced defensive metrics, committing that many errors should disqualify Seager from winning a Gold Glove. But Seager also led the league in put outs and assists at his position. Errors are already a flawed method of evaluating defense because of their subjective nature but they also weigh heavily on our perception of a fielder. This was a point Patrick liked to champion: because errors are negative plays that are specifically singled out, our brains can usually recall them easier than the routine plays that are made every game. Of course we expect someone like Seager to make all the routine plays, we’re more concerned with the outlier plays, both outstanding and erroneous. But when the only thing that’s being recorded in the record book are the negative plays, those somehow take precedence over the outstanding plays. This is an even bigger problem for Seager who so often makes the extraordinary look ordinary.

Advanced defensive metrics, for all their flaws, attempt to quantify the excellent play on the field and work it into a fuller evaluation of defense. But even they can’t agree on the quality of Kyle Seager. From the FanGraphs article, here are Seager’s marks from three popular defensive metrics with his rank among AL third basemen:

· Defensive Runs Saves: 15 (1st)

· Ultimate Zone Rating: 4 (4th)

· Fielding Runs Above Average: 21 (1st)

Seager led the league in two of the three categories so he’s obviously doing something right. The error component of UZR brings his overall score down—if he had made even an average amount of errors for a third baseman, his UZR would easily be third in the league.

Since errors are singled out on the stat sheet and the advanced defensive metrics feel too objective, I went through the trouble of watching a few defensive highlights to demonstrate Seager’s defensive wizardry. There are just over 40 highlights on MLB.com that are tagged with “Kyle Seager” and “defense.” To help you, dear reader, gain a deeper appreciation for Seager’s excellence, here are ten highlights that show off Seager’s excellent defensive skills.

10. Seager’s outstanding stop

8/20 vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Defensive skills displayed: reactions, glovework, footwork, arm strength

9. Seager ignites sweet double play

8/27 at Chicago White Sox

Defensive skills displayed: range, arm strength

8. Seager makes grab in crowd

7/19 vs. Chicago White Sox

Defensive skills displayed: range, glovework

7. Seager’s diving stop

4/27 vs. Houston Astros

Defensive skills displayed: range, glovework, footwork, arm strength

6. Seager’s barehanded play

4/23 at Los Angeles Angels

Defensive skills displayed: range, speed, strong hands, arm strength

5. Seager starts a slick DP

8/10 vs. Detroit Tigers

Defensive skills displayed: reactions, glovework, instincts

4. Seager’s diving play

7/26 at Pittsburgh Pirates

Defensive skills displayed: range, glovework, footwork, arm strength

3. Seager’s strong running throw

6/24 vs St. Louis Cardinals

Defensive skills displayed: range, speed, glovework, arm strength

2. Seager nabs Correa in the 5th

4/25 vs Houston Astros

Defensive skills displayed: range, arm strength

1. Seager’s game-saving play in 9th

8/17 at Los Angeles Angels

Defensive skills displayed: range, glovework, footwork, arm strength