On Tuesday, Andrew McCutchen was awarded the National League Gold Glove for center field.
This means that big-league managers and coaches thought Andrew McCutchen is a good defender, which will probably be news to most serious Pirates fans.
McCutchen isn't a terrible centerfielder. He has good athleticism and speed. But he doesn't throw well, and he struggles with balls he has to go back on. As a Pirates blogger, I rarely hear McCutchen described as a strong defensive centerfielder. In fact, when hardcore Bucs fans discuss McCutchen's defense at all, it's mostly to argue about whether the Pirates should move him to a corner to make room for a potential legitimate Gold Glover in Starling Marte. This award more or less ensures that they won't, unfortunately.
The stats suggest that McCutchen was not a good centerfielder this year. UZR suggests that Michael Bourn -- a player with tremendous range who looks much better than McCutchen in the field -- was the best defensive centerfielder in the National League. It also ranks Chris Young, Bryce Harper, Drew Stubbs, Carlos Gomez, Cameron Maybin and Jon Jay as above average. This all makes sense, for the most part. McCutchen rates ahead of Dexter Fowler and Matt Kemp, but he's still well below average.
In short, I'm not sure what the voters were seeing. The idea that McCutchen is a good centerfielder doesn't pass the eye test, and he doesn't stack up well statistically, either.
As a Pirates fan, this is frustrating. It doesn't feel good, as a fan, for a Pirate to win an award he doesn't deserve. McCutchen deserves attention for his hitting, which was brilliant. But I certainly didn't spend this season reveling in his defense.
You know which Pirate did have a great defensive season, though? Clint Barmes. I know, I know -- you can't stand Barmes. He's an awful hitter. But the Pirates, and especially the Pirates infield, did a surprisingly good job turning batted balls into outs this year, and Barmes was a key reason why. His range was tremendous, as he got to plenty of balls that few other shortstops could touch. He also finished first in the National League in UZR.
Perhaps appropriately, the voters had nothing at all to say about Barmes. Oh well. The Pirates deserved one Gold Glove, and they got one. It just went to the wrong player.