The Nationals are in the World Series, and most fans would point to their star-studded rotation or deep lineup as the biggest reasons why. It makes sense. The rotation’s Big Three is maybe baseball’s best, and the lineup boasts a variety of All-Star caliber hitters.
One area that doesn’t get much attention, but may be just as critical as those other two? The defense.
The Nats’ success in the field has been recognized, with three different players listed as finalists at their respective positions for a Gold Glove award this year.
Victor Robles, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon were each nominated for the award thanks to terrific seasons in the field. Robles, in particular, was a standout in center field.
Using his elite speed and fearlessness, the Robles (center field) led baseball with 21 Outs Above Average, per Statcast data. He finishes ahead of Gold Glove stalwarts Kevin Kiermaier, Lorenzo Cain and Harrison Bader, the latter two making up the other finalists at his position. Only seven other fielders were in the double digits, and Kiermaier finished second with 17 OOA, so it was a dominant performance by the young outfielder.
Soto (left field) found himself on the OOA leaderboard as well, with six OOA -- tied for 20th in baseball -- this season. This might come as a surprise to fans who watched Soto struggle in the outfield as a 19-year old rookie last season. But the young star worked hard in the offseason, and turned himself to an above average fielder, especially at a position not known for its gloves.
Rendon (third base), despite being one of the Nationals’ best fielders, faces the biggest uphill battle thanks to his competition. Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado has utterly dominated the competition in the National League this decade. He’s won six consecutive Gold Gloves at third base, and the award looks like it’s his to lose until further notice.
That’s not to say Rendon can’t win, but it won’t be easy. The competition is stiff across the board, but the Nats have put themselves in a position to compete.
Of course, with the team up 2-0 and in control of the World Series, Gold Gloves aren’t the hardware these guys are focusing on just yet.
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