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Scott Rolen wins Gold Glove over Ryan Zimmerman

The Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, above, scored better than Scott Rolen on a number of fielding analyses, but his Reds' counterpart still won the National League Gold Glove award at third base for the eighth time in his career.
The Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, above, scored better than Scott Rolen on a number of fielding analyses, but his Reds' counterpart still won the National League Gold Glove award at third base for the eighth time in his career. (By Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
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By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2010; 12:49 AM

Gold Glove Awards tend to be distributed based largely on reputation (see: Jeter, Derek). And while Ryan Zimmerman, third baseman of the Washington Nationals, is earning a well-deserved reputation for defensive brilliance, Wednesday's announcement of the 2010 National League Gold Gloves proved that he is no Scott Rolen.

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Rolen, the Cincinnati Reds veteran, was awarded his eighth career Gold Glove (but his first since 2006), further cementing his credentials as the premier defensive third baseman of his generation. Among NL third basemen, he trails only Mike Schmidt (10) for the most Gold Gloves all-time; Baltimore's Brooks Robinson won 16 in the AL.

Rolen, 35, is the player to whom Zimmerman, 26, has been compared most since the latter's debut in 2005, combining defensive brilliance with 30-home-run power and a reputation for "playing the game the right way."

Although Zimmerman won his first Gold Glove in 2009, his fielding percentage - the traditional metric for measuring defense - dropped 12 points in 2010 to .951, a decline at least partly attributable to the presence of Adam Dunn, a below-average fielder, as the Nationals' everyday first baseman.

By more advanced metrics, Zimmerman remained an elite defender in 2010, rating a 13.9 UZR (ultimate zone rating) by the Web site Fangraphs.com, ranking third in the majors. (Rolen, at 10.6, ranked sixth.) Zimmerman also narrowly finished second to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria in voting for the Fielding Bible Awards, a non-league-specific poll of sabermetrically inclined journalists and bloggers.

However, it is unlikely many of the Gold Glove voters - NL managers and coaches - consulted advanced defensive metrics before casting their ballots. The primary criteria appear to be fielding percentage (Rolen, at .977, ranked second in the league) and reputation. Never was the latter more evident than when Texas's Rafael Palmeiro was awarded the AL Gold Glove for first basemen in 1999, despite having played only 28 games at the position that season.

Gold Glove Awards also tend to go hand-in-hand with offensive prowess, and it is perhaps not coincidental that Rolen enjoyed a resurgent year in Cincinnati. His 133 games played represented his most since 2006, the last time he won a Gold Glove, and his 20 homers, 83 RBI and .854 OPS also represented personal bests since 2006.

The other NL Gold Glove winners, announced Wednesday: pitcher Bronson Arroyo (Reds), catcher Yadier Molina (Cardinals), first baseman Albert Pujols (Cardinals), second baseman Brandon Phillips (Reds), shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies), and outfielders Michael Bourn (Astros), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) and Shane Victorino (Phillies).


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