Could Tigers’ Jonathan Schoop miss Gold Glove because of offense? ‘It’s a good challenge’

Detroit Free Press

Jonathan Schoop doesn’t understand how the OAA metric is calculated.

But he is proud of his outs above average.

“He looks up that stuff all the time,” Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday.

Several factors, collected from Statcast technology, are taken into account for infielders, including distance traveled to the intercept point, time needed to reach the intercept point, distance from the base the runner is heading to, and for force plays, the average speed of the runner.

“This season has been a rough season as a group and for me on offense,” Schoop, the Tigers’ second baseman, said Thursday. “This is my lowest point on offense so far. But I didn’t let my offense contribute to my defense. I found a way to keep them separated to go out there, help my team win and help my pitchers get outs.”

Schoop leads baseball with plus-27 OAA, and ranks first in defensive runs above average, a combination of Fangraphs’ fielding runs and positional adjustment metrics, with a value of plus-22.2. The 30-year-old is worth plus-10 defensive runs saved, third-best among American League second basemen. The eye test backs up the metrics, and he has a .994 fielding percentage with only three errors in more than 1,000 innings.

He is worthy of being a finalist, if not the frontrunner, for the AL’s Gold Glove at second base. A 10-year MLB veteran, and without a Gold Glove to his name, Schoop has experienced the best defensive season of his career. Voters — managers and coaches — are provided with all the defensive metrics and should be well aware of his success, but they also know he simultaneously experienced the worst offensive season of his career.

“I think he’s a viable case,” said Hinch, who voted but isn’t allowed to select any of his players. “It’s a good challenge on whether it’s truly about defense or whether it’s about the total package. There’s been a lot of debate over the years over how much offense plays into that. Certainly, some second basemen around the league are outperforming him offensively, but pound-for-pound, play-for-play, his outs above average, his defense has been remarkable at second base. I’m rooting for him.”

Schoop is biased this year but firm on his stance.

“The Gold Glove is the Gold Glove,” he said. “There’s nothing about hitting. Or just call it Silver Slugger, not Gold Glove. In the past, I’ve had really good numbers and they didn’t give it to me when I hit better than any second baseman. I think a Gold Glove is a Gold Glove.”

In 2020, Schoop and Danny Mendick finished as finalists to César Hernández in the running for the Gold Glove. Schoop was worth plus-1 DRS and plus-5 OAA; Hernández, plus-6 DRS and plus-4 OAA. Although Schoop had a slightly better offensive season, Hernández was better on defense and controlled the edge in fWAR: 2.1 to 1.5.

Four Tigers second basemen have won the Gold Glove: Ian Kinsler (2016), Plácido Polanco (2007, 2009), Lou Whitaker (1983-85) and Frank Bolling (1958).

“It would mean a lot to me if I can win it,” Schoop said.

This year, Schoop’s offensive production doesn’t come close to his top competitors for the Gold Glove: Andrés Giménez (Cleveland Guardians) and Marcus Semien (Texas Rangers), both are worth plus-11 defensive runs saved. Giménez and Semien are above-average hitters; Schoop’s 57 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) ranks last among 134 qualified players (100 is average).

Giménez is worth 6.0 fWAR in 2022, the better all-around player this season — compared to Semien (4.2 fWAR) and Schoop (1.5 fWAR) — and seems like the favorite to win the Gold Glove at second base, even though he doesn’t grade out as the best defender.

“I think we should keep our focus on defense, not all defensive metrics,” Hinch said. “It’s important to watch the plays, to watch the actions, to study it a little bit deeper other than the numbers to see what a player brings. The double-play turn, as an example for Jonathan, has to be the best in baseball. I can’t imagine there’s another second baseman with his turn and his arm strength.”

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