Carlos Pena on Thursday was selected as the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner at first base in the American League. Pena, a first-time selection, posted a .998 fielding percentage in 1,099 chances, which was tied for first among qualifying first baseman in the majors. In John Dewan's plus/minus rating system—perhaps the most effective metric used to evaluate defensive value—he rated out fifth in the majors at the position, and second his league, with a +14.
The Rays' excellent run prevention efforts were the biggest reason for their remarkable worst-to-first turnaround in the American League East. Tampa Bay only allowed 671 runs, nearly a 300-run improvement from its total a season earlier. The team defense ranked first in the majors in defensive efficiency, the rate at which batted balls hit into play are converted into outs. The defensive excellence coincided with dramatic improvements in the bullpen and starting rotation, helping guide the Rays, with a middling offense, to the A.L. pennant.
Pena was an important part to an outstanding defensive infield, which featured above-average defenders at each position—Jason Bartlett (shortstop), Akinori Iwamura (second base) and Evan Longoria (third base). The left-handed hitting slugger's defensive contributions normally get overshadowed by his offensive output—31 home runs, .861 OPS—but he is a solid glove man at the position and not a bad choice by the managers and coaches.
Here are the full winners. In a future article, I will offer my criticisms about some of the undeserving winners (Michael Young, anyone?) in the American Leauge.
1B – Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays
3B – Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners
SS – Michael Young, Texas Rangers
OF – Torii Hunter, Minnesota Twins
OF – Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle MarinersTo reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.