Ke’Bryan Hayes has put on a defensive clinic for the Pittsburgh Pirates at third base this season, but can he overtake nine-time Gold Glover Award winner Nolan Arenado?
For the last ten seasons, Nolan Arenado has taken home the National League third base Gold Glove. If Arenado wins the Gold Glove at his position this year, he’ll have one fewer than all-time great third baseman Mike Schmidt and six fewer than arguably the best defender of all time, Brooks Robinson. But Ke’Bryan Hayes is arguably having a better season with the leather at the hot corner. Can the Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman play spoiler and end Arenado’s historic streak?
There’s no doubt that Hayes is one of the best defenders in the sport. On the season, Hayes has +19 defensive runs saved, the second most among all players. He also has the third most outs above average with +18. UZR/150 also holds him in a good light with a +5.4 mark. He’s by far and away a top 3 defender this season.
Then there’s Nolan Arenado, who isn’t far behind Hayes in most defensive statistics. Arenado has +18 DRS, which is just behind Hayes. He also has one fewer out above average with +14. However, Arenado outclasses Hayes in UZR/150 at +12.3. That’s over double what Hayes has put up.
Both Arenado has a 73% success rate on plays made and a 70% estimated success rate, and they also have a +3% added success rate, according to Statcast’s Baseball Savant. Both Arenado and Hayes are almost identical in nearly every single measurement. So which way will voters go?
Unfortunately, because of Arenado’s previous success, a lack of a clear winner, and some big-market bias, Hayes has a steep uphill battle for the Gold Glove. But it is possible, given how much more analytically inclined voters have been in the past few years. In the previous five seasons, we’ve seen the likes of Yolmer Sanchez, Nick Ahmed, Corey Dickerson, David Peralta, Tucker Barnhart, Jacob Stallings, Martin Maldonado, Michael A. Taylor, Cesar Hernandez, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa deservedly win the award despite playing on low-market or non-competitive teams while being finalist among some of the most popular names in the game.
Both Arenado and Hayes are two of the best defenders in the game. Anyone could make an easy argument for either to win the award. While it is the least advanced of the three top defensive statistics available, the difference in UZR may be enough to sway even the most analytically inclined voters to go with Arenado. But you can’t count out an upset where Hayes takes it from Arenado and ends what has been an extremely dominant run of defense for the all-time great third baseman.