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Inside the numbers behind Brenton Doyle's NL Gold Glove Award for best center fielder

Patrick Lyons Avatar
November 6, 2023

Brenton Doyle may not have made his Major League debut until nearly a month into the 2023 season, but his impact in the outfield was enough to earn him the National League Gold Glove Award for center field on Sunday.

The 25-year-old becomes the first center fielder to win the honors for the Colorado Rockies and just the second rookie for the franchise following Nolan Arenado at third base in 2013.

Doyle was promoted from Triple-A Albuquerque on April 24 and immediately showed the defensive prowess that earned him a Minor League Gold Glove Award in 2021. While he would make an error in his fifth game as a big leaguer, Doyle was perfect through the remaining 120 in the field, good for the second-longest active streak in the NL. His .997 fielding percentage for an outfielder ranks first in Colorado history for a season longer than 60 games.

The Warrenton, Va. native struggled at times at the plate owing to just 57 plate appearances above Double-A, but manager Bud Black still utilized Doyle in 91% of games after calling him up (126 of 139 games).

“He really gave me the assurance and confidence that no matter how I’m hitting at the plate, he’s confident to put me out there just because of how many runs I save defensively,” Doyle told media following the award announcement. “He wants me to go through those struggles and build some tough skin which it really did help me and it helped me thrive, especially towards the later end of the season.”

If the highlight reels weren’t enough to convince some, the metrics also pointed at Doyle’s ability as a top defender. According to Sports Info Solutions, his 19 defensive runs saved (tracked since 2003) are more than triple the previous high for a Rockies center fielder.

Ultimate Zone Rating also ranked Doyle as the best center fielder in the game. Factoring elements such as arm strength, range and errors, the UZR for Doyle was 24.5, well above the next best outfielder, Fernado Tatis Jr. with 13.8 UZR, and on another planet when compared with second-best in center field, Atlanta’s Michael Harris II with a 5.3 UZR.

Doyle is the third outfielder to win the award with Colorado, following the likes of Larry Walker (1997-99, 2001-02) and Carlos González (2011, 2013-14). He is also just the sixth rookie to be given a Gold Glove as an outfielder (also: Tommie Agee, 1966; Fred Lynn, 1975; Ichiro Suzuki, 2001; Luis Robert, 2020; Steven Kwan, 2022) and the first to do so in the National League.

Baseball Savant also quantifies countless data points on the defensive side of the game. Outs Above Average, a metric that focuses on range in terms of above or below average plays, credited Doyle with 16 OAA, most among all outfielders and tied for fifth-most among defenders at any position this season.

The fourth-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft was also measured to have an average arm strength of 96.1 MPH, sixth-fastest among all position players in the Majors. His 10 outfield assists were tied for the fifth-most in the NL. When narrowing the field to arm strength on outfield assists, Doyle’s name appeared five times in the top 14 in MLB and six of the top seven for center fielders. In addition, his 105.7 MPH throw on Sept. 2 in Denver against the Toronto Blue Jays was recorded as the hardest thrown ball in the Statcast Era.

Doyle enjoyed a lot success playing in the outfield alongside another 25-year-old rookie blessed with a cannon for an arm. Together, he and Nolan Jones displayed a friendly competition that seemed to improve the play for both men.

“Whether it’s us throwing people out left and right or making good grabs in the outfield, the biggest thing is him and I always keep it loose out there,” Doyle said of his relationship with Jones. “We joke around a lot. We have a lot of fun. We have a lot of inside jokes. So just keeping loose out there definitely helps play a lot more freely and fun.”

A pair Rockies infielders were also named finalists for Rawlings’ top defensive honors — 3B Ryan McMahon and SS Ezequiel Tovar — but finished behind Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pittsburgh Pirates at third base and Dansby Swanson of the Chicago Cubs at shortstop, respectively.

Diamond Details

The Chicago Cubs led the way in the National League by winning three Gold Glove Awards for the first time since 1957 when the honors originated. NL winner included: C Gabriel Moreno (ARI), 1B Christian Walker (ARI), 2B Nico Hoerner (CHC), 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT), SS Dansby Swanson (CHC), LF Ian Happ (CHC), CF Brenton Doyle (CF), RF Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD), UTIL Ha-Seong Kim (SD) and P Zack Wheeler (PHI).

In the American League, rookie Anthony Volpe took home the hardware for the New York Yankees at shortstop while six teams took home the 10 different Gold Glove Awards, including three each for the Texas Rangers and Toronto.

AL winners included: C Jonah Heim (TEX), 1B Nathaniel Lowe (TEX), 2B Andrés Giménez (CLE), 3B Matt Chapman (TOR), SS Anthony Volpe (NYY), LF Steven Kwan (CLE), CF Kevin Kiermaier (TOR), RF Adolis García (TEX), UTIL Mauricio Dubón (HOU) and P José Berríos (TOR).

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