OAKLAND — Oakland’s hometown hero is once again a Gold Glove finalist, along with two of his fellow Athletics infielders and.
On Thursday, Rawlings announced the finalists for each position, and for the second year in a row, Oakland’s Marcus Semien joined first baseman Matt Olson and reigning Platinum Glove winner Matt Chapman on the rolls. Outfielder Robbie Grossman — who has a 184-game errorless streak — was also named a finalist.
The plaudit comes after arguably one of the greatest offensive seasons in franchise history for Semien, who grew up in Oakland and went to school just up the 880 at Cal. Along with MVP numbers at the plate, Semien — a former defensive liability — had one of the best defensive seasons in the entire American League.
On the last SABR Defensive Index (as of Aug. 18), Semien was the 15th-best fielder in all of the Junior Circuit. FanGraphs’ DEF stat — which measures a fielder’s value relative to league average, factoring in positional adjustments in order to compare across positions — has Semien as the fourth-most valuable Major League shortstop, and the best in the American League at 14.1 (St. Louis’s Paul DeJong is first at 18.5).
Chapman — who led the big leagues in defensive runs saved last season — ranks fifth among all big leaguers in defensive runs saved (and first among third basemen) this year, while leading all American League fielders with a 13 on the SABR Defensive Index, which accounts for 25% of the Gold Glove tabulations.
Grossman ranked sixth among American League outfielders in ultimate zone rating (3.9), and his 228 total chances without making an error were second most among Major League outfielders.
Olson ranks 16th in the Major Leagues in defensive runs saved (13), four ahead of the second-best first baseman (Arizona’s Christian Walker). That, too, isn’t surprising. Last year, Olson was 12th in baseball in defensive runs saved last year, and also first among first basemen.
The fact that Semien has been named a Gold Glove finalist for the second time in two seasons would have been unthinkable after his sophomore year with the Golden Bears, when he committed 21 errors in 57 games.
“Marcus is really good at self-evaluating what he needs to work on,” said former Cal closer and Rockies farmhand Matt Flemer, who was Semien’s teammate with the Bears and in high school. “That still continues. I think that’s why he’s been able to have that success … It was never going to be a question of if he was ever going to have another year like that, becasue if you put in the work he does, that’s not going to happen.”
Even after he improved — becoming one of the top shortstops in the Pac-10 during Cal’s 2011 College World Series run, committing 12 errors in 61 games — his defense was considered his weakest tool when he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox. He saw more action at third base and second base than short, compiling an overall fielding percentage of .943 in parts of two seasons.
In his first season with the A’s after a 2015 trade, he finally got to play his natural position — shortstop — full time. He posted a ghastly .947 fielding percentage, but worked before every game with fielding guru Ron Washington.
Brought on to tutor Semien during his first season in Oakland, Washington worked him out before every game. It’s a routine that, despite Washington’s departure after the 2016 season, Semien continues to use.
During the offseason, Semien heads to Berkeley to take 100 grounders a day from Cal assistant Noah Jackson, a former local star himself with the Bears and Marin Catholic.
“Marcus is out here every day,” said Flemer, who served as a volunteer assistant with the Bears last season. “If he’s not here, he’s at the Coliseum.”
This year, Semien was rated the 15th best fielder in the Major Leagues (regardless of position) according to the SABR Defensive Index..
Semien gone from a part-time, .240 hitter with 92 strikeouts in 300 at-bats and a hole in his glove in parts of two seasons with Chicago to being the A’s most consistent, dependable all-around player. This year, his on-base percentage (.369) was second among regulars (to his former Cal teammate Mark Canha), and he had just 87 strikeouts in 657 at-bats.
He set team records for home runs (31) and RBIs (84) by a leadoff hitter, and in Major League history, the only players to equal or surpass his totals in runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, walks and stolen bases in the same season are Babe Ruth (1921, 1923) and Lou Gehrig (1927).
“It’s amazing, where he’s come from and where he is now,” manager Bob Melvin said earlier this season. “I’ve never been around a big leaguer who’s come this far.”