After finishing up their 2020 World Series championship run, Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger and right fielder Mookie Betts have been named finalists for the 2020 Gold Glove Award.
We’ll take a look at each player and their defensive contributions to the Dodgers during the 2020 season.
Bellinger primarily played first base in his first two seasons but was moved to the outfield in 2019, where he played elite defense to earn his first Gold Glove Award. In 2020 he was moved to center field to make room for Betts, where he once again shined defensively.
In 2020, Bellinger ranked second among National League (NL) center fielders with five defensive runs saved (DRS). DRS measures players in terms of runs saved compared to a league average of zero. While five runs may seem insignificant, one win is approximately equivalent to ten runs, meaning Bellinger’s defensive contributions raised the Dodgers' standings by half a win. In the shortened 60-game season, this number is significant.
In addition, Bellinger tied for first among all MLB outfielders with seven outs above average (OAA), which estimates how many outs a player saved based on a batted ball’s catch probability. In particular, Bellinger’s directional OAA revealed he was equally valuable when making a play to his right as he was when making a play to his left. This skill is particularly valuable for center fielders who need to make plays shading to both left and right field.
Bellinger’s defensive value was highlighted in the World Series, where he made a pair of elite plays against the Tampa Bay Rays in key situations. On the first play, Bellinger covered 74 feet in 4.4 seconds to retire second baseman Brandon Lowe with two outs and two runners on base in the eighth inning of Game 5. Lowe’s line drive had a catch probability of 45% and a Leverage Index (LI) of 3.25, meaning it was highly influential in determining the game’s outcome.
On the second play, Bellinger ranged to his left to rob left fielder Randy Arozarena leading off the eighth inning of Game 6. Bellinger traveled 60 feet in 3.9 seconds to make a catch on a play that had a 45% catch probability and an LI of 2.15, which is considered a highly influential play.
Bellinger tied for second this season among MLB outfielders in four-star catches and tied for fifth in three-star catches. Four-star catches are those with a 26-50% catch probability, and three-star catches are those with a 51-75% catch probability.
Betts, drafted by the Boston Red Sox as a second baseman, has become an elite defender. He has won four straight Gold Glove Awards for his play in right field.
In 2020, Betts ranked first among NL right fielders in both DRS and ultimate zone rating (UZR), both of which attempt to measure the run-value of a player’s defense but in slightly different ways. Betts' 11 DRS was also the third highest total among all MLB players and signifies that his defense was worth about one win in the Dodgers' standings.
Additionally, Betts tied for third among MLB outfielders with six OAA, and his directional value came primarily from plays made behind him and to his right, which helped him make plays in the right-center field gap.
Betts' defense was on full display during the postseason, when he made spectacular play after spectacular play to propel the Dodgers to their World Series championship.
This season, Betts also tied for fifth among MLB outfielders with seven three-star catches and was tied for second in two-star catches, which are plays made with a 76-90% catch probability.
The Gold Glove Award winners will be announced Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.