When the St. Louis Cardinals turned a six-person double play against the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 25, nobody knew for sure that four of the players would win Gold Gloves for their defensive abilities, or that the club would have five Gold Glove winners in all, a record for one team in a single season.
And yet, the Cardinals cleaning up in defensive awards makes sense given how consistently strong they were on defense from Opening Day to the NL Wild Card Game. The Cards finished second to the Texas Rangers in team defensive runs saved, per Fielding Bible, and finished first in outs above average among all teams at MLB Statcast.
Here are the Cardinals individual Gold Glove winners:
• Paul Goldschmidt, first base (fourth award): Per Fielding Bible, he saved nine runs to lead all major league first basemen. Per MLB Statcast, he was second in MLB among his position with six outs above average.
• Tommy Edman, second base (first award): He saved six runs, per Fielding Bible. He had 13 outs above average, which was 12th in MLB among all players, regardless of position, per MLB Statcast.
• Nolan Arenado, third base (ninth straight Gold Glove): Per Fielding Bible, he saved six runs. He also had 10 outs above average, which was second in the NL at third base and 23rd in MLB among all players, per Statcast. By some measurements, Ke'Bryan Hayes of the Pirates and Austin Riley of the Braves had better seasons — Riley, in particular, because he played a full season.
• Tyler O'Neill, left field: (second straight Gold Glove): He saved 11 runs to lead all left fielders. Per MLB Statcast, he was tied for the league lead in outs above average among left fielders with three. O’Neill’s improvement on both sides of the ball has been remarkable.
• Harrison Bader, center field (first award): He saved 15 runs, which was second among center fielders. Per MLB Statcast, he had 14 outs above average, which was ninth among all players regardless of position.
All of these players had a hand in turning the legendary double play against the Cubs, with catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong also assisting. Molina had another solid year defensively but did not win his 10th career Gold Glove.
Only since 2013 have hard statistics been part of the calculus for handing out Gold Gloves, which historically have been educated guesses or popularity contests. And even now, because the analytics of measuring defensive performance is still inexact, there's still an element of the old ways in determining who wins. Still, based on what we know, all of these Cardinals players are among the top players at their positions.