2020 SABR defensive rankings: Twins’ Buxton narrowly misses Gold Glove

The Minnesota Twins didn’t win any Gold Glove awards in 2020.

If you missed those announcements, it’s because Major League Baseball oddly decided to distribute the annual fielding honors on election night Tuesday.

Anyway, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) recently released the 2020 SABR Defensive Index (SDI), the organization’s statistic for rating defensive performances of players.

SDI was the sole determination for the Gold Glove awards in 2020. It previously accounted for 25%.

The ratings measure a player’s performance in comparison to his peers, based on metrics such as defensive runs saved (DRS), ultimate zone rating (UZR) and runs effectively defended (RED).

So, what does this all mean?

All of the formulas and mind-numbing statistics are combined to give each player a single number to assess his defensive prowess from the past season.

Byron Buxton, who was one of three American League Gold Glove finalists in center field, was given an SDI rating of 5.5, which ranked fourth overall in the AL and 10th in baseball. Unfortunately, Chicago White Sox rookie Luis Robert finished just ahead of Buxton at 5.6 and was awarded the AL Gold Glove in center field.

Had Buxton stayed healthy and appeared in more games, he might have won the yearly honor. Robert played 56 regular-season games for the White Sox, compared to Buxton’s 39.

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Texas right fielder Joey Gallo (7.1) and Cleveland second baseman Cesar Hernandez (5.6) were the only other two AL players to finish with a better SDI rating than Buxton.

Right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda, who joined Buxton as the only two Twins finalists for a Gold Glove, was given an SDI of 1.0, which ranked second among AL pitchers behind Los Angeles Angels’ Griffin Canning. Jose Berrios (0.4) tied for eighth.

At first base, Miguel Sano ranked third-worst with a -1.5 SDI. Marwin Gonzalez (0.2) came in ninth at third base.

There were seven AL shortstops with a positive SDI, but Minnesota’s Jorge Polanco (-0.4) was not one of them.

In the outfield, Eddie Rosario (1.1) ranked fourth among left fielders behind Kansas City’s Alex Gordon (3.8), Houston’s Kyle Tucker (2.1) and Toronto’s Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (1.2). Max Kepler, who finished second among right fielders last year, ranked seventh in 2020 with a 1.4 SDI. Jake Cave played enough in center field to qualify for an SDI of 0.0.

The Twins had four players appear behind the dish in 2020 – Alex Avila (19 starts), Mitch Garver (19), Ryan Jeffers (18) and Willians Astudillo (4) – but none played enough innings to qualify. Minnesota did not have a second baseman qualify either.

Manager Rocco Baldelli’s squad will have to wait until next year to halt the Gold Glove drought, as the Twins haven’t filled their trophy case since Buxton and second baseman Brian Dozier won at their positions in 2017.