Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart wins only Gold Glove in 2017

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds had four Gold Glove finalists, but only Tucker Barnhart won his award.

So how did the catcher for the Cincinnati Reds go from the worst catcher’s ERA in baseball in 2016 to the National League Gold Glove winner in 2017?  Yadier Molina of the Saint Louis Cardinals and Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants were the other two finalists.  Their reputations precede them.

Molina led the NL in games caught.  Barnhart was sixth.  Posey didn’t even catch 100 games in 2017.

Molina also caught more innings than any other NL catcher.  Barnhart and Posey were seventh and eighth, respectively.  Molina was clearly the ironman of NL catchers.

This trio, though, is three of the top four catchers at throwing out base stealers.  Barnhart was first with Posey second.  Austin Hedges of the San Diego Padres snuck in between Posey and Molina in the rankings.

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Manny Pina of the Milwaukee Brewers and Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs had the most catcher pick-offs in the NL at six.  Molina led the finalist trio at three.  Pina and Contreras both caught just a bit more than Posey.

The amazing stat is that Posey only had one passed ball in 99 catching appearances.  Jeff Bandy in Milwaukee had five in fifty games.  The Atlanta Braves’ duo of Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers combined for a total of 19 passed balls in 2017.

Tucker Barnhart must have done something to earn the Gold Glove as the catcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

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Barnhart definitely improved his game calling.  He rose to twelfth in catcher’s ERA in the NL after finishing dead last in baseball, including part-time catchers in 2016.  This year his catcher’s ERA was nearly a half run lower than that of the staff overall.

The other thing that Barnhart did at an exceptional level was assist.  Despite being only sixth in games caught, Barnhart led the NL in assists.  Molina was sixth and Posey was eighth with Contreras in third.

Catching defense is often subjective, however, pitch framing has also become an en vogue stat.  Barnhart didn’t do well there either.  Posey and Molina both added strikes to their pitchers, while Barnhart cost his staff.

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Frankly, Barnhart didn’t deserve to win.  He has improved markedly since his original promotion to the Reds’ big league roster, but that doesn’t mean that he is Gold Glove quality.  When a part-time catcher/part-time outfielder like Contreras tracks better, it calls into question the whole award process, even if Barnhart’s improved play did earn him a nice contract extension.