Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
Much of the A’s dramatic improvement in 2018 was because of the team’s outstanding defense, and on Thursday, the team’s entire starting infield received Gold Glove-finalist honors.
In their first full big-league seasons, first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman were named finalists at their positions, and both have strong shots to win Gold Gloves when they are presented Nov. 4, likely the first of many for the A’s corner infielders.
Chapman also has a good chance at winning the Platinum Glove, presented to the best overall defensive player in the league. He topped SABR’s defensive-index rankings, which account for 25 percent of the Gold Glove tally, with a 19.5 ranking in the latest figures through Aug. 19. The next closest player was A’s shortstop Marcus Semien, at 11.6.
Semien is a finalist, too, along with double-play partner Jed Lowrie. Both had standout defensive seasons, with Semien’s particularly notable after his early rough years at the position in Oakland; he made an A’s-record 35 errors in 2015 to lead the majors.
“It’s not a surprise to me that they’re all finalists,” manager Bob Melvin said via text Thursday. “They’ve gotten there in different ways, at different points in their careers, but the common denominator is the hard work they all put in. I fully expect at least a couple to win, but they’re all deserving.”
The last team to have four infielders among the Gold Glove finalists was Tampa Bay in 2013 (first baseman James Loney, second baseman Ben Zobrist, third baseman Evan Longoria and shortstop Yunel Escobar).
Olson, 24, led major-league first basemen in games (162), total chances (1,494) and putouts (1,403), and he topped American League first basemen in games started (152), assists (84) and double plays (115). He ranked third in fielding (.995). He is one of four men in AL history to play in 162 games in a season at first base, along with Norm Siebern (K.C., 1962), Bill Buckner (Boston, 1985) and Carlos Delgado (Toronto, 2000).
Lowrie, at 34, put together his finest all-around season, leading AL second basemen with a .993 fielding percentage. He tied for the lead in assists (336), ranked third in total chances (534) and fourth in putouts (194) and double plays (73), while committing just four errors in 136 games.
Semien, 28, led major-league shortstops in total chances (676) and assists (458), but tied for the second-most errors (20). He led AL shortstops in games (159) and games started (158), ranked second in putouts (198) and was third in double plays (79).
Chapman, 25, led the majors in defensive runs saved, with 29, eight more than the next-closest fielders, Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Arizona shortstop Nick Ahmed. Chapman is recovering from surgery performed last week to alleviate discomfort in his right thumb and hand; he is expected to be ready for spring training.
The A’s, who finished in last place each of the previous three seasons before winning 97 games and the AL’s second wild-card spot this year, went from last in FanGraphs’ defensive metrics in 2017 to third overall in 2018.
The Gold Gloves, presented by Rawlings since 1957, will be announced at 6 p.m. Nov. 4 on ESPN.