Pablo Sandoval, of the San Francisco Giants, is very much in contention for a gold glove. Yes, you read that correctly. The third baseman, must currently be the hot favourite to win the gold glove award for National League in the hot corner. In a contract season, many expected Sandoval, who showed up to spring training in immaculate shape, to bat his way to an extension. Nope. If he does indeed sign a new contract with the Giants, he gloved his way there. If that’s even a thing.
Sandoval has been a terrific defensive player on the eye and in the metrics. Typically, Brandon Crawford, who plays beside Pablo, on the left side of the infield, is considered to be the elite defender in the Giants infield. Oh, how things change. While Crawford has produced many breath-taking, game-saving plays, overall, he has been upstaged by the Panda. Big time.
There is, however, some tough competition. The Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado is not only one of the best defensive third baseman in the game, he is one of the best defensive players, period. But – Arenado has played around 30 games less than Sandoval, due to injury. Pedro Alvarez, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is another rival, but he has struggled with his arm, and is consequentially being moved to first base. The New York Mets’ David Wright, is also hot on Pablo’s heels, but he ranks behind Sandoval in most key defensive metrics. Juan Uribe, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is another challenger, but like Arenado, he has played around 300 innings less than the Panda.
So – how do the metrics look for Sandoval? His RZR of .752 is good enough for third place among all third baseman in the National League. His UZR, the most important defensive metric, is 7.6, which is 0.9 points higher than Arenado, but 1.4 points lower than Uribe, who leads the way. Likewise, in defensive WAR, the Panda ranks second, with an incredible 9.3 wins above replacement. Pablo ranks third in BIZ, second in UZR/150, and with 11 runs saved, ranks fourth in DRS.
The bottom line is: Sandoval has played some seriously good defense this season. Not only is he the best defensive third baseman in the National League right now — according to defensive WAR, he is the 15th best defensive player among everyone. It’s pretty baffling, really. On the eye, the Panda, doesn’t look to be overly agile, or quick handed, but believe me, he certainly is.
As I often say: Fangraphs doesn’t lie. Sandovals defense is for real. Whether it earns him an extension is a different story, especially with moving Buster Posey to the infield almost imminent. Regardless, the Panda is definitely in contention to add another accolade. Pablo Sandoval should win the 2014 gold glove award. Mark my words.