DETROIT – The White Sox haven’t had a Gold Glove position player since third baseman Robin Ventura in 1998. Their last Gold Glove outfielder was Ken Berry in 1970.
Adam Eaton has a good chance to join the club, with a major league leading 23 defensive runs saved and 17 outfield assists, which led the majors going into the Sox’ game against the Tigers at Comerica Park Monday night, on his resume.
“It’s everything,’’ Eaton said of the coveted award. “If you’re the best glove at your position, that’s like winning an MVP. You’re the best player in that league.’’
Eaton’s glove was in center field the night after his right (glove) forearm got hit by a Taijuan Walker fastball during the fifth inning of the Sox’ 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. Eaton left the game, X-Rays were negative, but the arm was still sore.
“Yesterday he couldn’t grip anything,’’ Ventura, the Sox manager, said Monday. “Today it’s good enough for him to play. He’s battled through some stuff, and he can play with pain, so I’m going to let him do it.’’
“I don’t want to be Wally Pipped,’’ Eaton said.
There’s almost zero chance of Eaton losing his spot. A case can be made that Eaton, who was batting .276/.359/.412 with 11 homers, eight triples, 19 doubles and 45 RBI to go with his excellent defense, is the Sox’ MVP. He’s worth 4.6 wins above replacement according to the FanGraphs calculation, and ranks 13th among major league positions players (Tim Anderson at 1.4 and Todd Frazier at 1.2 are next among Sox position players).
Eaton was a Gold Glove finalist in center field in 2014, his first season with the Sox. He regressed defensively last season but is flourishing in right field, where he moved after the Sox acquired center fielder Austin Jackson during spring training. With Jackson hurt and Avisail Garcia getting a second look in right, Eaton will play more center down the stretch.
Eaton voiced a desire to return to center earlier this season says now that he’s more familiar with right, he’s good with any position.
“It’s whatever the team needs,’’ he said. “I can be familiar with center or right if they want me to and I can juggle both and that’s fine. It only adds value to myself personally and hopefully they see value as well. It’s the same with hitting, being able to hit in the first three spots. I like to see myself as a piece that can be valuable.
“Put me in right I want to win a Gold Glove, put me in center I want a Gold Glove, put me in left I want a Gold Glove. Throw me at third base I’ll try to win a Gold Glove.’’
Well, Ventura’s “last Sox” Gold Glove is safe at third. But you get Eaton’s enthusiasm for the award, and should he put one on his mantle, he’d be the first White Sox to do so left-hander Mark Buehrle in 2011.
Managers and coaches vote for the Gold Gloves, and a sabermetric component – SDI (SABR Defensive Index) – accounts for about 25 percent of the balloting. Eaton’s SDI through Aug. 7, the latest released data, was at 20.8, comfortably above every other player in baseball – Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor was second at 11.3, Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar third at 11.0.
There is one Rawlings Gold Glove Award for each of the nine positions in each league.
“It would be an honor to win it,’’ Eaton said. “There are some great defensive players who have won the award and it would mean everything to me to win it. It would be an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the greatest outfielders in all of baseball.’’