Oakland catcher Sean Murphy should have won his second Gold Glove this year. There, I said it.
After winning last year’s award over catchers Martin Maldonado and Salvador Perez, Oakland’s backstop lost out on the honor this year to Jose Trevino of the New York Yankees. Blah.
After watching Murphy catch for just about the entire season and seeing his work on a daily basis, it seemed like a shoe-in that he’d get some more hardware for his trophy shelf after being nominated for the award again just a few weeks ago.
So when Trevino was announced last week as the recipient of the award, surprise and confusion ensued and a dive into the nitty-gritty statistics was almost a requirement.
On the first glaze-over of the most common fielding stats baseball nerds use to make assessments on players, like runners caught stealing and fielding percentage, they were separated by a mere 2 percentage points in both categories, both in favor of Trevino. Hm, that can’t be why Murphy was snubbed.
Then I saw what seems to have been the main reason voters chose Trevino over Murphy for the Gold Glove: catcher framing runs. In short, the statistics say he saved more runs than Murphy based on how well he framed the pitches from his staff.
Now, this isn’t meant to be a criticism of Trevino and his defensive abilities. On the contrary, he really was one of the best defensive catchers on the field this year…
…when he played.
The Yankees main catcher was on the slightly bigger end of a time-share this past season, starting 89 games at the position for them this year while Kyle Higashioka took the rest.
For those wondering, that’s only starting 55% of their games. And he didn’t even finish all of those, catching a complete game in only 79 of those contests. In total, he had 820 innings behind the plate this year.
Compare that to Murphy’s workload. Murph caught 116 games this year and finished all but five of them. His innings total? Right at 1004 frames, while playing in over 70% of games for the Green & Gold.
This huge disparity in playtime would intuitively benefit Trevino. Catcher is one of the hardest, most physically tolling positions in all of sports, and while Trevino was able to have plenty of full off-days, Murphy wasn’t so fortunate. having to DH 30 times when he wasn’t catching compared to once for Trevino. The A’s were desperate to have his bat in the lineup, even if it meant less time to catch a breather.
Then there’s the differences between the actual pitchers both teams had. While New York had an above-average starting rotation and bullpen, including some of the best pitchers in 2022 among other veterans, it was the exact opposite for Murphy. With Oakland in rebuilding mode, the team cycled through rookie pitchers on a near-weekly, nay, daily basis.
That means starting a new relationship with a new pitcher, learning how to catch them, what they like to throw, and how to get the most out of them all in the middle of the season. That’s something that just doesn’t show up on the scorecard at the end of the year, and could be a significant reason why he wasn’t able to rack up the defensive runs saved like Trevino did.
It shouldn’t be too shocking, I guess, for A’s players to lose out on awards to bigger-market teams, especially the Yankees. They get more hype and attention than the average bear. Just look at the other Yankee player to win a Gold Glove this year, DJ LeMaheiu, who missed a bunch of time but won the first ever utility Gold Glove thanks to his ability to play third, second and… first base? Really?
Maybe my A’s homerism is coming through here, but Trevino was put in a far better position than Murphy and didn’t play nearly as much as the Oakland catcher.
Ask yourself this: if Murphy was on the Yankees and Trevino with Oakland, would Trevino still have won the award? Discuss below!