Adam Eaton added another highlight reel catch on Wednesday night to a campaign full of fantastic plays.
When the Rawlings Gold Glove finalists are named next month, Eaton is expected to be among them for the second time in three seasons. But as outstanding as the White Sox outfielder has been, he’s also sure to face a strong challenge from Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. With 2 1/2 weeks to go, Eaton and Betts appear to be in a tightly-contested race for the award. One factor that could disrupt Eaton’s chances — besides the fact that Betts is having an MVP-type season at the plate — is that the White Sox outfielder has 336 fewer innings in right field headed into Thursday.
“We’ve had to use him in center out of necessity,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But in right field, I haven’t seen anybody that’s better than him this year.”
The numbers are close depending upon your defensive metric of choice. Eaton — who because of Austin Jackson’s injury has logged 344 1/3 innings in center field and 902 1/3 in right — holds a 24.0 to 16.8 edge over Betts (1,208 innings in right) in Ultimate Zone Rating in right field, according to fangraphs.com.
He also holds an edge in assists, with 15 of his 18 coming when he plays in right field. Betts has 13 assists. And Eaton leads in UZR/150 22.9 to 18.9.
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One area where Betts has a big lead is in Defensive Runs Saved as he’s produced a major-league leading 29. Eaton has 23.
Eaton feels good about his candidacy.
“Across the board it's been relatively good,” Eaton said. “Yeah, you take a lot of pride in that. We all talk in spring training about wanting to win a Gold Glove. It's always been on my list to win. I take a lot of pride in that. You work your butt off to be in a position to hopefully be in the top three and want to win every year. It takes effort and focus and some good luck and some great teammates.”
A finalist as a center fielder in 2014, Eaton has been superb in right field since he made the switch earlier this season. His routes have been smooth and his arm is not only strong, it’s extremely accurate. Eaton said the addition of Jackson in center allowed him to go out and play the outfield freely.
“When he’s in right, he just gets better jumps,” Ventura said. “I think it just suits his eye better, reading balls off the bat. Throws are better. He just seems to be online. You never know why a guy has comfort in that. But he is remarkably better in right.”