Jason Heyward won one, and he should have. But so should Michael Bourn and the aforementioned Prado. If we consult Baseball-Reference.com, we note that the three Braves’ outfielders led the National League at their respective positions — left, center, et cetera — in “Total Fielding Runs Above Average,” which is to say in runs saved. What’s more, the three Braves’ outfielders were, according to B-R, the three best outfielders at saving runs in the entire National League. Bourn saved 38, Heyward 23, Prado 16. (Actually Prado tied for third with the Giants’ Angel Pagan, who’s a center fielder.)
Back to FanGraphs: All three Braves’ outfielders ranked among the National League’s top 11 players in WAR (wins above replacement) index, by which sabermetricians swear. And here we see that the three Braves ranked 1-2-3 among all NL’ers at all positions in FanGraphs’ overall fielding (FLD) ratings.
The Gold Glove for National League center fielders went to Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, whose FanGraphs FLD number was minus-6.9. (This isn’t golf; miinuses aren’t good.) The Gold Glove for left fielders went to Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, whose FLD number was minus-8.5. Bourn’s number: Plus-22.4. Prado’s number: Plus-17.8. To borrow from the great Tennessee announcer John Ward: “Not … even … close.”
Managers and coaches vote on Gold Gloves, and not many among them are sabermetrically inclined. They use charts and numbers, sure, but they also rely on what their eyeballs tell them. And that’s my point: Sometimes in sports and particularly in baseball, our eyeballs deceive. We who watched the 2012 might not have grasped that we were observing one of the greatest defensive outfields ever assembled. But we were, and we did.