Cincinnati Reds Tucker Barnhart starts another Gold Glove journey

(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds Tucker Barnhart is recognized as the first advanced metrics Gold Glove catcher.

A year after grading out as a bad defensive catcher for the Cincinnati Reds in 2016, Tucker Barnhart won the 2017 National League Gold Glove Award and the starting catching job.  In a day and age where analytics are all of the rage, Barnhart won the award without catching an elite staff.  In order for Barnhart to win, though, he both had to win the analytical side and the visual observation side.

For years a catcher had to be solid on offense and elite defensively.  That all changed in 2017.  Not only did Barnhart win in the NL, but Martin Maldonado of the Los Angeles Angels won in the American League.

What’s interesting is that Maldonado and Barnhart don’t share the same metrics.  Barnhart was high on assists.  Maldonado was high on putouts.

They were both in the top ten in MLB in framing, however.  Maldonado led the AL.  Barnhart trailed three others in the NL.

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Maldonado, however, led the AL in runs saved via framing.  Barnhart’s number was actually negative.  So even though he tried to frame, his attempts actually cost the Reds runs.

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Baseball Prospectus ranks Maldonado and Austin Hedges of the San Diego Padres as the two best defensive catchers from 2017.  Barnhart, though, hustled like few other catchers and led MLB in dWAR for catchers in 2017.  dWAR, or Defensive Wins Above Replacement, puts more emphasis on the number of chances and a high success rate compared to the other metric systems used to assess catchers.

With 2017 a success, the Cincinnati Reds look to see if Tucker Barnhart can win the catching Gold Glove again.

Barnhart has one big step forward to make as a Gold Glove catcher.

That is CERA.  Catcher ERA (CERA) is the ERA that a pitching staff earns with a catcher behind the plate.

One way that some analysts are looking at CERA now, though, is the difference between CERA and team ERA.  In other words, Barnhart had a CERA of 4.75 in 2017 and the Reds had a team ERA of 5.17.  That means that his catching saved the Reds 0.42 in ERA or almost half a run a game.

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In 2016 the opposite was true.  The team had an ERA of 4.91, but Barnhart had a CERA of 5.07.  That is a large reason that he won the Gold Glove in 2017, he improved his CERA.  In 2018 the pitching staff needs to take a step forward and his CERA likely need s to be 0.50 or more lower than the staff ERA for him to repeat as the Gold Glove winner.