The Orioles’ Ramón Urías was named the American League Gold Glove winner for third basemen on Tuesday.
Urías beat out two more acclaimed third basemen, Toronto’s Matt Chapman, the winner of three Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves for best overall fielder; and Cleveland’s José Ramirez, who’s likely to be among the top finishers in the Most Valuable Player voting.
Even though Ramirez had terrific offensive numbers (29 home runs, 126 RBIs, a .280 batting average with an .869 OPS, leading the American League with 44 doubles) and played 129 games at third, it’s Urías who gets the Gold Glove, the first for an Oriole since Manny Machado won at third in 2015.
Machado won Gold Gloves in 2013 and 2015 at third and won the Platinum Glove in 2013. Oriole legend Brooks Robinson won 16 Gold Gloves.
Chapman, who started 151 games at third, 67 more than Urías, had the defensive pedigree, but Urías received the award.
The Gold Gloves are voted on by American League managers and up to six coaches per team, and they can’t vote for their own players.
Voting counts for 75 percent while the SABR Defensive Index (SDI) makes up the other 25 percent.
Urías started just 10 games at third base in 2021, and he wasn’t even the Opening Day third baseman this season. That was Kelvin Gutiérrez. Urías didn’t end the season as the third baseman because of a sprained knee.
Urías had two stints on the 10-day injured list. A left oblique injury cost him 22 games from June 10th through July 4th, and the sprained knee kept him out of the final eight games.
Urías was the Opening Day starter at second base, and he started there 19 times. He also was the starting shortstop in four games.
Before the finalists were named, Jorge Mateo seemed as if he had an excellent chance, but was snubbed as a finalist, and Houston’s Jeremy Peña won Gold Glove at shortstop.
Cedric Mullins was a finalist in center field, but Cleveland’s Myles Straw won that.
In the limited time he played third base, Urías did have sparkling statistics. He had a 1.9 Defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Ramirez’s DWAR was .3 and Chapman’s .6.
The analytics helped Urías tremendously. He had an SDI of 11.1, the highest among American League third basemen, and third highest among all AL fielders.
The SDI is a measure of the number of runs saved by a player’s defensive performance over the season compared with the average defensive player at that position.
According to the Orioles, “the SDI combines measures from six different defensive data sources and includes factors that rate a defender’s arm strength and accuracy, range and sure-handedness and the number of ‘excellent’ and ‘poor’ fielding plays made.”
Urías led AL third basemen with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, according to Sports Info Solutions and a 10.9 Ultimate Zone Rating, according to FanGraphs.
“Both DRS and URZ take a variety of game situations into account including infielders’ performance on balls hit in the air, range, throwing success, double play ability, fielding bunts and the impact of good plays/misplays third are not accounted for in other components,” according to the Orioles.
Statcast calculates that Urías tied for the AL lead among third basemen with seven Outs Above Average.
Those defensive stats are all outstanding, but it’s entirely possible that Urías won’t be the starting third baseman for the Orioles in 2023.
Gunnar Henderson, who finished the season at third after Urías hurt his knee, may begin 2023 there, and if Jorge Mateo remains at short, Urías might have to move to second or be a utility player.
For the first time in 2022, there was a Gold Glove awarded to a utility player. DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees was the first winner.
Urías’ improved his defense and offense in 2022. In 118 games, he hit 16 home runs, tying him with Mullins and Austin Hays for third most on the club behind Anthony Santander’s 33 and Ryan Mountcastle’s 22.
Half of Urías’ 16 home runs were to center or right, and nine were either two-run or three-run home runs.
Urias’ overall WAR was 3.6, which trailed only Adley Rutschman’s 5.2 and Mullins’ 3.8.
The intrigue over Urías’ 2023 position on the Orioles won’t be a major story over the winter, but his surprising win of the Gold Glove will raise his profile.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB