The biggest obstacle to Ke’Bryan Hayes finally winning his first Gold Glove award has been removed.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado wasn’t among the three finalists at third base in the National League. The finalists at all positions were announced Wednesday.
That leaves Hayes, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ outstanding defense third baseman, in the running with the Colorado Rockies’ Ryan McMahon and the Atlanta Braves’ Austin Riley. Arenado missed the cut after winning Gold Gloves in each of his first 10 major-league seasons.
Voting is conducted among managers and up to six coaches from each team, who can’t select players from their own club. Since 2013, voting has been factored with a Society for American Baseball Research defensive index, which comprises about 25% of the total.
The winners will be announced Nov. 5.
No one can know for sure what the managers and coaches are thinking. However, the three finalists can be compared from a statistical standpoint.
Using fielding percentage, which is the most traditional defensive metric, Hayes easily had the best mark among the three at .984. He was charged with just six errors in 365 total chances.
Riley’s fielding percentage was .972 (11 errors in 393 chances) and McMahon finished at .969 (12 errors in 381 chances).
Hayes also finished first in the more exotic statistics.
His 21 defensive runs saves were four more than McMahon’s 17 and 12 more than Riley’s nine. As far as outs above average, Hayes led with 17 while McMahon had 11 and Riley had zero.
Judging from that data, Hayes was clearly the best defensive third baseman in the NL this year.
Hayes rarely likes to talk about himself. However, he readily admitted at the end of the season that he yearns to win a Gold Glove.
If nothing else, the award would be a testament to Hayes’ father, Charlie Hayes, who was a third baseman in the major leagues for 15 seasons.
“I’m not the biggest single awards guy or whatever, but it would mean a lot because I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Hayes said. “All facets of my game. Defense, base running, the mental side of the game, hitting, all that stuff. For me, looking back where I started, even defensively as a kid. My dad and my brother would always get onto me about my defense when I was younger, when I was seven, eight, nine, 10. Sometimes, they would really grill me about it.
“Them having that knowledge, them playing and knowing that you’re always going to be able to impact the game just hitting. That’s how you win championships. It’s how it keeps you on the field, if you’re able to play defense. I used to fight back and forth with it. I think sometimes when I was younger, I would get away with stuff, having good hands or this or that, but they would always get onto me, at the next level, saying at the next level, that’s not going to work. Those balls are going to be hit harder, this or that.”
Hayes took the advice to heart, and it has paid off in the big leagues. He has 65 defensive runs saved in 374 career games at third base over four seasons.
“Just to think how far I’ve come athletically from when I was little, it would mean a lot because I really take pride in my defense,” Hayes said. “I try to not take any plays off. Even in practice, I try to take it game-like, so in the game, it’s just second nature. Just react and go off my instincts.”
If the voters follow their instincts, Hayes should be receiving a Gold Glove next April 5 before the Pirates play their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at PNC Park.