One of the big reasons that the Phillies stumbled so much in 2018 was their defense. In just one season though, the defense showed a vast improvement and three Phillies – two who were new to the team in 2019 – have been nominated for National League Gold Glove Awards. Aaron Nola is among the pitchers nominated, while Bryce Harper (outfield) and J.T. Realmuto were also both nominated for the award.
Harper is likely the biggest surprise among the three, not in how he played, but in the improvement that his defense showed in 2019. While his fielding percentage fell from .993 in 2018 to .983 in 2019, he was still at the league average. The biggest difference was that he had 13 outfield assists this past season in 152 games in right field. In 600 previous games in right, Harper had 26 outfield assists in his career. His range factor of 1.95 was his highest since 2015 when he posted a 1.93 RF while with the Nationals. His assists and range factor led all NL outfielders in 2019.
Realmuto had a pedigree as a defensive catcher before he arrived in Philadelphia. In fact, defense is one of the reasons the Phillies were so high on acquiring Realmuto because he is one of the few catchers in the majors who combines a big bat with quality defense.
While his fielding percentage was just about league average at .992, Realmuto led all major league catchers with a 47-percent caught stealing percentage, throwing out 43 of 92 would-be thieves. National League catchers averaged throwing out 26-percent of base stealers in 2019.
For the third time in his career, Nola went an entire season without committing an error, but had 34 more innings than in either of the other two seasons. Nola may likely be edged out by Zach Greinke, who made just one error this season, but had nearly twice as many fielding chances – 36 for Nola, 68 for Greinke – and nearly four times as many putouts with 33, compared to Nola’s nine.
The winners will be announced during a live, one-hour Baseball Tonight broadcast on ESPN on November 3rd at 7 p.m. eastern.