ST. PETERSBURG — Sunday’s announcement served to only re-affirm what has seemed obvious to anyone watching: When healthy, Kevin Kiermaier is best defensive centerfielder in the American League.
Kiermaier won the Gold Glove award for the third time in the last five seasons. In the other two, he played less than 100 games due to injury and based on a minimum innings requirement was ineligible.
“You always want to stay humble in every regard you can in this game because things can switch in an instant and I never try to take any of that for granted, but what I’ve said time and time again is there’s not anyone who can do what I can do out there from a total package standpoint,’’ Kiermaier said Sunday at the Trop.
“There’s other guys who are faster than me, who have better arms than me, more accurate, but put all those things together with my instincts and my experience … I think it just lets you know if I stay healthy, I truly believe this is my award to lose.’’
Kiermaier, 29, won the award, voted by AL coaches and managers with a sabermetric component, over the Red Sox’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and the Angels’ Mike Trout, who is the favorite to win the AL MVP award next week.
‘’I know I’m not the best offensive player, the most complete player, or most popular player in the game, and it’s good for those type of people to win these awards,’’ Kiermaier said.
‘’But if we’re talking about a defensive award, I don’t think you can give this to anyone else after what I did this year. I just truly believe I can control a game out there better than anyone in baseball from an outfield standpoint.’’
Quantifying defensive prowess has been problematic, and somewhat convoluted. The Gold Glove elections are based approximately 75 percent on the voting (with managers and coaches prohibited from voting for their own players), and 25 percent on an analytical measure known as the SABR Defensive Index (SDI), which combined five defensive metrics.
Kiermaier said he was greatly appreciative of the votes, especially playing for a smaller market team, and the advancement in the defensive statistics.
In the SDI, Kiermaier had an AL high 7.6 ranking, Trout was sixth at 1.9 and Bradley 14th at -6.6.
In fangraphs.com’ s defensive runs saved, Kiermaier ranks first of AL centerfielders with 13, while Trout and Bradley were both -1. Since the start of 2015, Kiermaier leads all major-league outfielders with 116 defensive runs saved.
Kiermaier also ranked at the top in several metrics compiled using data from MLB’s StatCast.
He got the best jumps among all outfielders (at 3.8 feet above average).
He led the AL with 17 outs above average, and was second overall to Washington’s Victor Robles’ 23, in what is described as a “range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them.’’
And he was tied with Robles with a 6 percent catch percentage added. That is the difference between StatCast’s expected catch probability, a rating based on how many catches, based on degree, and average outfielder would make, and the specific fielder’s actual catch percentage.
Kiermaier played 125 games in centerfield this season (117 starts), making four errors in 260 chances, and logging six assists. He did miss time due to injury for the fourth straight season, but was only on the injured list for 10 days (eight games) with a thumb sprain.
Kiermaier joins Evan Longoria as the only Rays to win three Gold Gloves; Carl Crawford, Jeremy Hellickson and Carlos Pena won one each.
Kiermaier, who has already started training to increase speed and explosiveness, is aiming to add more to his collection and his legacy as one of the game’s best.
“I want to put the discussions to sleep,’’ he said. “It aggravates me, to be honest. I don’t like being compared to certain other guys who are in the game. Certain things I’ve come across where I can’t believe this person or that person is saying that. That’s what makes me better. It’s the chip on my shoulder, where I’m like I don’t think anyone’s in my league and I’m going to go out there and prove what I’m saying.’’
Kiermaier is also a candidate for the all-around Platinum Glove, with voting through Thursday at rawlings.com.
BBWAA award finalists next
Three finalists for each of the BBWAA awards will be named Monday night (6 p.m., MLB Network), with the Rays most likely candidate being Kevin Cash in the manager of the year category, and with a chance to be the winner that is announced next week. Brandon Lowe could make the top three among rookies and Charlie Morton among Cy Young candidates.