Another season is in the books, and Matt Chapman is still the best defensive player in the American League, and probably in the entire major leagues. The Oakland A’s third baseman won the AL Platinum Glove on Friday, earning the honor for the second straight year.
The Platinum Glove is an offshoot of the Gold Glove awards, administered by sports equipment company Rawlings since 2011. It is decided almost entirely by a fan vote, with the general public picking between that year’s nine Gold Glove winners in each league to determine the top overall fielder in the AL and NL (a percentage of the vote is also determined by SABR’s SDI stat). This is the ninth year the award has been given out, and Chapman now has the last two of them, in his first two full seasons of MLB action.
The 2019 awards season has already been fruitful for Chapman, who also won his second straight Gold Glove, his second straight Fielding Bible award, and his second straight nod as the Wilson Defensive 3B of the Year, although he missed out on the overall Wilson DPOY prize this year after taking that honor in 2018. It’s not quite a clean sweep like it was last year, because of the Wilson part, but he still won nearly every defensive award available to him.
The NL saw a repeat Platinum winner too, and at the same position as the AL, as Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado took his third straight Platinum Glove. However, there’s not really a debate to be had about who the superior hot-corner defender is — while this award is split between the two leagues, there are two others that are MLB-wide and Chapman snared both, for the second straight year. He was chosen almost unanimously by the Fielding Bible panel of experts, and he came out ahead in the objective statistical measure of Wilson’s equation. Chappy is the best 3B defender in the game right now, period.
As for the label of best defender regardless of position, the new challenger is Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez. He beat Chapman for the Wilson DPOY this year, in addition to his own Gold Glove and Fielding Bible, all of which he won for the first time in his career. Perhaps if he’d also grabbed the Platinum over Chapman then there would be an argument to be had, but Chapman’s track record should win out here, with a 2018 clean sweep followed by repeating in almost every award in 2019. We’re biased here at Athletics Nation, but it’s easy to make the case for Chapman still being the top overall fielder in the sport.
And why is that clean sweep so important to this analysis? It encapsulates every type of methodology. The Gold Glove is voted on by managers and coaches (the old school), whereas the Fielding Bible is determined by a panel of many of the top sabermetric minds in the industry (the new school). Wilson decides its awards based purely on objective statistics, completely stripping out confounding factors like reputation and name power, while the Platinum Glove fan vote is almost entirely a subjective popularity contest.
That group of four awards represents the best of every world, so to have all those versions land on the same player (like it did in 2018) is quite impressive and begins to paint a meaningful picture. Bonus points for Chapman being so next-level amazing that an Oakland player was able to win a nationwide vote, as you may have heard that the A’s don’t have the biggest fanbase in the majors.
As for the Platinum Glove, Chapman is now one of only four players ever to win multiple times — and three of them are third basemen. In addition to Arenado’s three, catcher Yadier Molina won four in the NL, meaning that pair has accounted for seven of the nine wins in the award’s history. Over in the AL, third baseman Adrian Beltre won the first two editions in 2011-12. Here’s the full AL list:
- 2011: Adrian Beltre, TEX (3B)
- 2012: Adrian Beltre, TEX (3B)
- 2013: Manny Machado, BAL (3B)
- 2014: Alex Gordon, KC (LF)
- 2015: Kevin Kiermaier, TB (CF)
- 2016: Francisco Lindor, CLE (SS)
- 2017: Byron Buxton, MIN (CF)
- 2018: Matt Chapman, OAK (3B)
- 2019: Matt Chapman, OAK (3B)
It’s no surprise to see Chapman receive so much recognition for his glove work. Anyone who’s ever seen him play has spent the rest of the day collecting their jaw from off the floor, as his range, reflexes, and throwing arm are utterly unbelievable. He makes ridiculous highlight plays on the regular, including some you’ve never seen anyone do before, and he also makes fewer mistakes than anybody else at the hot corner. It’s virtually impossible to lay down a successful bunt in front of him, regardless of the speed of the runner (ask Dee Gordon), and he robs doubles better than anyone else too.
Simply put, Chapman is a game-changing defender, whether you prefer the eyeball test or his monster scores on the advanced metrics. Even at age 26, with not even 400 games under his belt, it’s already fair to call him a generational talent. These awards are nice, but before long we won’t be discussing where he stands amid today’s game, we’ll be debating where he ranks among the best fielders in MLB history.
Congrats to Chapman on another well-deserved honor! May there be many more yet to come.