Should Span be golden?

It’s too bad the World Series hasn’t been more entertaining through its first four games.

All we’ve seen so far is a game end on an obstruction call (which had never happened before in the postseason), a game end on a pickoff (which had never happened before in the postseason), Jonny Gomes hit a game-winning homer after learning 90 minutes before first pitch he’d been inserted into the starting lineup, David Ortiz posting a Fall Classic OPS of 2.114 (even with him being robbed of a grand slam in Game 1), 11 total errors and multiple close, controversial calls by the umpires.

Yeah, pretty quiet series to this point.

In all seriousness, these four games have been tremendously fun to watch. Not necessarily the cleanest baseball, but wildly competitive and enjoyable.

About 36 hours from now, we’ll find out whether Ian Desmond or Denard Span will wind up taking home a Gold Glove award for their defensive efforts this season.

The Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners will be announced Tuesday beginning at 8 p.m. on ESPN2, and both Desmond and Span are finalists at their respective positions.

Desmond looks like a longshot to take home the hardware, partially because of his 20 errors this season, but largely because he’s going up against the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons and the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, two top-notch defensive shortstops. Simmons broke out this season, and will likely end up winning the Gold Glove for top National League shortstop.

Span, on the other hand, appears to have at least a decent shot of becoming just the fourth Washington-based major leaguer to win a Gold Glove, joining Adam LaRoche (2012), Ryan Zimmerman (2009) and Senators catcher Earl Battey (1960).

He’s up against the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez and the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen for the Gold Glove among NL center fielders.

Despite playing in 1,300 2/3 defensive innings this season, Span didn’t commit a single error in 384 chances for the Nationals. As I mentioned the other day when the Gold Glove finalists were announced, Span ranked third among qualifying NL center fielders with a 10.2 UZR (ultimate zone rating), and his 2.51 range factor ranked second.

span-with-hat-grey-sidebar.jpgThe lack of errors obviously works in Span’s favor in the voting process, especially among managers and coaches who still view defensive ability through more traditional ways. Some have started to give more weight to advanced fielding metrics in recent years, but there are still some “old-school” coaches who will look at Span’s 1.000 fielding percentage over his 1,300 2/3 innings played and give him an edge.

Gomez made five errors in 408 chances over 1,242 innings this season, while McCutchen had six errors in 338 chances over 1,378 innings.

Some of the key advanced metrics, however, give Gomez a clear advantage over the other two NL center fielder finalists. Gomez had a 24.4 UZR, tops among all major league center fielders by a wide margin, and a 2.78 range factor, ranking first among NL center fielders. (McCutchen, last year’s Gold Glove winner, had an 8.4 UZR and 2.14 range factor.)

These numbers are especially important this year. In past years, Gold Gloves were based solely on voting by managers and coaches in each league. But this year, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the Gold Glove award selection process, as part of a new collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The SABR Defensive Index will account for approximately 25 percent of the Gold Glove selection process, with voting from managers and coaches still carrying most of the weight.

So it appears, at least based on an initial glance, that Gomez will get an assist from the sabermetric element.

Span’s shot at the award might also take a bit of a hit for another reason, one that really shouldn’t factor in at all but sometimes does anyway. Of the three finalists for the Gold Glove for NL center fielders, Span posted the worst offensive season.

The Gold Glove Award is handed out for defensive ability, but it seems that offensive production sometimes comes into play. McCutchen might win the NL MVP award after hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs, while Gomez hit .284/.338/.506 with 24 homers and 73 RBIs.

Span, meanwhile, posted a .279/.327/.380 line this season, with four homers and 47 RBIs. Offensive production might help some Gold Glove candidates, but it won’t help the Nats center fielder.

As anyone who watched him on a daily basis knows, Span had a tremendous defensive season. He covered lots of ground, rarely got bad reads on fly balls and made a handful of spectacular catches on the run. He deserved to be named a Gold Glove finalist and has a shot at the hardware. But it looks like he might come up a bit short this year.

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