Zach Davies had one of the worst seasons ever for a Cubs starting pitcher, posting a 5.78 ERA and 1.601 WHIP in 32 starts covering 148 innings. Among other things, he led the National League in walks allowed (75) and served up a career high 25 home runs.
Nevertheless, he might walk away with a 2021 postseason award:
2021 Rawlings Gold Glove Award Finalists - Pitcher - NL: Zach Davies, Max Fried, Zack Wheeler #RawlingsGoldGloveAwards pic.twitter.com/WOwmMCERKJ— Rawlings Baseball (@RawlingsSports) October 28, 2021
In traditional fielding numbers, Davies did pretty well. He handled 35 chances in 2021 (13 putouts, 22 assists) without an error and 33 percent of baserunners who tried to steal against him were thrown out (league average is 25 percent).
Of course, those old-school numbers aren’t the ones used. Included among the criteria for choosing the winner of this award is the SABR Defensive Index, which accounts for 25 percent of the vote. Rawlings describes the SABR Defensive Index this way on their website:
The SABR Defensive Index is a measure of the number of runs saved by a player’s defensive performance over the course of a season, compared to the average defensive player at that position. The SDI combines measures from six (6) different defensive data sources and includes factors that rate the defenders arm strength and accuracy, range and his sure-handedness, along with the number of “excellent” and “poor” fielding plays he makes. The SDI also incorporates a rating for a player’s ability to turn double plays (2B and SS), fielding bunts (primarily P, C, 3B, and 1B) and scoops of throws in the dirt (1B). For catchers, blocking balls in the dirt and stolen bases/ caught stealing are also included. For pitchers, the SDI includes his ability to hold runners on base and control the running game.
A positive SDI number indicates that a player was above average compared to other players at his position this season. Conversely, a negative SDI number means the player performed below the league average at this position this season.
It would appear from that description that “control the running game” was the reason Davies likely ranked high enough during 2021 to be a finalist. I’m not familiar with the defensive numbers or SDI for Max Fried or Zach Wheeler, so I can’t really make any judgment on whether Davies was better than those two or not, or who’s going to win the NL award at pitcher.
Each manager and up to six coaches on his staff vote from a pool of qualified players in their League and cannot vote for players from their own team. In 2013, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The SABR Defensive Index™ comprises approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, with the manager and coach vote continuing to carry the majority.
So, we’ll see what happens. The Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners will be announced live on ESPN Sunday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m. CT. It would be a fitting coda to this weird Cubs season to have Zach Davies be its only award winner.