As exciting as it was to see Luis Robert Jr. set career highs in every offensive category over the course of 145 games this season, the return of his outfield range gave his entire game some necessary anchoring. Robert is more susceptible to running hot and cold than the typical star player due to his (over)aggression at the plate, so he needs to play a strong center field to buoy him during the worst of times. Anything less than stellar makes it hard to call him a superstar.
We saw it in 2022, when Robert lurched around the outfield as he battled one malady after another. He kept his head above water at the plate despite dealing with a groin injury, a wrist injury and a couple of illnesses in between, but his range took a significant hit. Outs Above Average downgraded Robert to merely above average, but Defensive Runs Saved put him in the red, and while that grade seemed severe, he had enough uncharacteristic moments in the outfield to make it plausible.
There was a possibility that 2022 marked the start of a slowdown, whether you attributed it to age and maturation or wear and tear. Fortunately, his range remains firmly correlated with his condition.
Because Robert was healthy enough to play in 145 games, star in the Home Run Derby and blast a few dozen impressive regular-season homers as well, he was healthy enough to once again play a brand of center field that’s worthy of Gold Glove consideration. The finalists were announced on Tuesday, and Robert is in the running for his second such award, competing with Kevin Kiermaier and Julio Rodriguez. The Gold Gloves will be handed out on Nov. 5.
Let’s bring update that chart above with the results from 2023:
When bringing the other finalists into the fold, it should be a close race. If you believe OAA, it’s neck-and-neck-and-neck, as Robert and Kiermaier both finished at 13 OAA, with Rodríguez one out behind. If you trust DRS, then the gold, silver and bronze medals should be set:
- Kiermaier, 18
- Robert, 6
- Rodríguez, -5
Rawlings uses a combination of metrics that results in the SABR Defensive Index, which accounts for a quarter of the vote. These totals are only periodically updated in order to avoid spoilers, but the last update on Aug. 13 shows a more OAA-oriented view:
- Rodríguez, 6.6
- Kiermaier, 6.3
- Robert, 5.3
Kiermaier seems like the bigger threat than Rodríguez because he’s won three Gold Gloves, and he’d have plenty more if it weren’t for health and platoon limitations. There’s no shame in finishing second in this group, or third for that matter. Robert already achieved the rebound he needed, getting back to covering an absurd amount of ground in the gaps …
… and improving his play around the wall as well.
When he’s taking runs off the board like that, it multiplies the value of whatever he does at the plate. Take it all into account, and that’s why he’s likely to receive significant MVP support as well, even if Shohei Ohtani figures to run away with the entire thing.