Christian Yelich may not come up with highlight reel grabs in the outfield every night for the Miami Marlins, but he literally got the job done more than 99 percent of the time in 2017, and that was not enough to earn him national recognition for his defensive skills for the second time in his relatively short career.
Yesterday, the finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove awards were announced, and Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton all made the final three for their respective positions. Miami led all of baseball in fielding percentage (.988) and fewest errors committed (73), which broke the single season franchise record.
While advanced fielding metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved are taken into account when evaluating the value and skill of a player when they are in the field, Yelich led Miami in terms of fielding percentage (.997) and fewest errors committed (one) for those on the team who manned their position for more than 900 innings. In comparison, Stanton and Ozuna, the Marlins outfielders who actually made the shortlist, committed more errors (nine combined) in fewer innings.
Furthermore, Yelich led the entire National League in innings at center field, and he was the only player in the top ten of NL center fielders, in terms of innings in the field, to commit fewer than two errors. Those figures are extremely impressive, but they do not tell the whole story.
Yelich only had one outfield assist all season, while the three center field finalists all had at least seven. Also, his defensive WAR was -0.6, which was over a whole run worse than both Hamilton and Taylor. Therefore, one can say that while Christian Yelich had a fantastic season defensively, he was not the most rounded center fielder in the league, just the most dependable.
Even though Yelich would have most likely not won the Gold Glove for the National League in center field, he was worthy of a spot in the final due to his exemplary fielding percentage. He should be feeling a little left out right now as he was a big reason why the team broke records and set the defensive standard across baseball in 2017, and he was the personification of the continued value of strong fielding in today's game for Miami.