Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ryan Zimmerman seeks his second straight Gold Glove award.
Might as well enjoy it while you can, because you won't be hearing much about the Nats over the next two weeks as the other big awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year) are handed out.
This, however, is an opportunity for the Nationals' one truly established star to earn some due recognition as one of the game's best. Ryan Zimmerman nabbed his first Gold Glove a year ago. Can he make it two in a row?
Conventional wisdom says he probably will. Not because he was the clear-cut best defensive third baseman in the NL this season -- the Padres' Chase Headley actually beat out Zim in UZR (16.5 to 13.9) and committed fewer errors (13 to 17) -- but because this award is based way more on reputation than actual statistical performance.
The Gold Gloves are awarded based on the votes of managers and coaches from each league. Which is a perfectly valid method for honoring the game's best defensive players. These guys see everyone in the league up close and personal, and they offer a perspective writers and fans can never have (unless any of us has actually played professional baseball).
But I can assure you that most managers and coaches pay absolutely no attention to advanced fielding metrics. I'd be surprised if more than seven of the 30 MLB managers even know what UZR means.
These guys base their evaluations on what they see with their own eyes, and not only what they saw this season. Gold Gloves have notoriously become more of a lifetime achievement award than anything. Once you win once, you're pretty much assured of winning every subsequent year unless you really do something terrible in the field or some new stud comes along and blows everyone else out of the water. And, of course, offensive performance for some reason gets taken into consideration as well.
You can debate whether any of this is fair or not, but it actually plays in Zimmerman's favor. Truth be told, he probably wasn't as good in the field this year as he was last year (though his UZR went slightly up from 13.7 to 13.9 and he committed the same 17 errors as he did in 2009). To the untrained eye, Zim seemed a little less of a sure thing at third base this season. His sidearm throwing technique was awkward and led to some hold-your-breath moments. He also didn't make quite as many highlight-reel plays as he did in 2009, when he won ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" Web Gem Award.
But ask any half-aware observer of the game who the best third baseman in the National League is, and I'm guessing at least 90 percent would say Zimmerman. He's established a reputation as the best defensive player at his position, and he'll probably continue to be rewarded for it.
We'll find out for sure tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.