For the first time since Eric Chavez, the Oakland Athletics have a Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman.
Second-year third baseman Matt Chapman — who wowed crowds and national critics alike with his range, his arm and his glovework, especially in the coaching box behind the third base bag — became the second Oakland Athletics infielder this year to win a Gold Glove, on Sunday, following first baseman Matt Olson. He’s also the first A’s third baseman to win the award since Chavez won six straight from 2001-06.
“It feels amazing. It’s something I’ve always wanted, and that I’ve really worked hard for,” Chapman said on ESPN. “To do it next to Matt [Olson] feels amazing.”
This season marks the first time in franchise history that the A’s have had multiple winners on the infield.
“That makes you feel pretty good,” manager Bob Melvin said last week, upon the occasion of his contract extension being announced. “Based on where our defense was previous to that, to make that dramatic an improvement … we just completely turned the page on where we were defensively for three years, and that’s one, some hard work; two, some young guys come up in the system that are as talented as they are at the corners; and three, kind of identifying this years before.”
All four A’s starting infielder — Chapman, Olson, shortstop Marcus Semien and second baseman Jed Lowrie — were Gold Glove finalists. The 2018 season marks the third time in franchise history that the team has had multiple Gold Glove winners, after outfielder Dwayne Murphy and shortstop Alfredo Griffin won in 1985, and outfielders Murphy and Ricky Henderson earned the nod in 1981, along with pitcher Mike Norris.
“It’s an honor to win this prestigious award,” Chapman said later Sunday evening in a statement. “We all work to be the best at what we do and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to combine my ability with hard work.”
Both Olson and Chapman emerged in 2017, with Chapman making his big league debut. In 84 games, Chapman hit 14 home runs, drove in 40 runs and was on pace for a year with 31 defensive runs saved, with 19 defensive runs saved above average.
This year, Chapman, 25, led all American League third basemen — and in fact, all major leaguers — with 29 defensive runs saved (eight more than second-place Andrelton Simmons) and sported a 19.5 SABR Defensive Index rating as of the final, pre-Gold Glove report. That number was the highest in the major leagues, ahead of shortstop Marcus Semien’s 11.6.
He led American League third basemen in total chances (484), assists (331), and zone rating (.853).
“Most of us were pretty sure he had it in the bag,” Olson said.
“I mean, nothing’s for sure, but that might be the first nice thing Matt’s ever said to me, so that’s pretty cool,” Chapman said.
The award, voted on by manager and coaches, also incorporates SABR-developed defensive metrics, which make up 25 percent of the criteria. Managers and coaches can vote on players in their own league, but n0t on their own team.
As for those plays deep behind third base in some of the Oakland Coliseum’s expansive foul ground, Chapman led all major league third basemen with a 10.9 ultimate zone rating. UZR compares the event that actually happened (hit/out/error) to data on similarly hit balls in the past to determine how much better or worse the fielder did than the “average” player.
UZR divides a baseball field into multiple zones and assigns individual fielders responsibility for those zones. Only six players covered more ground in their zone than Chapman, including A’s first baseman and Gold Glove finalist Matt Olson (fifth, with an 11.6). Semien, a Gold Glove finalist at short, came in 12th (8.3).
“I know Matt Williams is walking on clouds right now, based on the fact that he’s our infield guy,” Melvin said of his infield coach, who won four Gold Gloves of his own as a player. “To see all four guys as finalists is pretty cool. The improvement we’ve made in such a short period of time not only speaks to the talent level, but the coaching staff, to work as hard as they did with these guys.”
Williams, Chapman said, helped him reach the next level as an infielder.
Chapman is up for the Platinum Glove — a fan-voted best-of-the-best award — and given his propensity for tracking balls down in the Coliseum’s expansive foul ground, he has a very good chance. Voting fort the Platinum Glove at Rawlings.com ends on Nov. 8at 10 p.m. ET.