CINCINNATI - Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart got the highest compliment after winning his first Gold Glove Monday night:
High praise from 10-time Gold Glove winner and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
— Johnny Bench (@JohnnyBench_5) November 8, 2017
Voters selected Barnhart as the top defensive catcher in the National League over eight-time winner Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and Buster Posey of the Giants. He's the first Reds catcher to win the award since Bench in 1977.
Barnhart's reaction? Thrilled. Humbled. Astonished.
— Tucker Barnhart (@Tucker_Barnhart) November 8, 2017
Three other Reds were Gold Glove finalists at their positions but did not win. They were first baseman Joey Votto, center fielder Billy Hamilton and left fielder Adam Duvall.
So it was Barnhart's night and a seismic shock as baseball awards go, since the 26-year-old Barnhart won in only his second full season as Reds catcher after taking over for injury-plagued Devin Mesoraco.
But the suburban Indianapolis native had a breakout year, leading the league in a half-dozen defensive categories:
- Defensive WAR (2.8)
- Fielding percentage (.999)
- Caught stealing (32)
- Caught stealing percentage (43.8)
- Assists (89)
- Blocked pitches (661)
- Total zone runs (11) - The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.
Barnhart committed only one error in 953 chances compared to seven in 2016 and raised his caught stealing percentage 10 points.
Although the award doesn’t consider offense, Barnhart also raised his slash line from .257./.323/.379 to .270/.347/.403.
Besides his defense and offense, the Reds liked the way the young catcher handled the more than 40 pitchers - young and old - they used last season. They rewarded Barnhart, a 10th-round pick in 2009, with a four-year, $16 million contract in September.
"The choice to invest in Tucker was an easy one because of all the other players on the field he impacts and touches," Reds General Manager Dick Williams said at the time. "He just makes everyone better."
Reds pitchers Brandon Finnegan, Sal Romano, Drew Storen and Cody Reed tweeted their congrats to their batterymate.
Congrats to the brotha @Tucker_Barnhart on winning the gold glove! Definitely deserved!!
— Brandon Finnegan (@bfinny29) November 8, 2017
— Sal Romano (@salromano14) November 8, 2017
Tough to top the joy of throwing to @Tucker_Barnhart, but watching him earn the Gold Glove Award is something truly special. Congrats pal.
— Drew Storen (@DrewStoren) November 8, 2017
Couldn’t be happier for you man! Well deserved @Tucker_Barnhart
— Cody Reed (@C_Reed24) November 8, 2017
Second baseman Brandon Phillips was the last Red to win a Gold Glove, taking home his third straight in 2013. Votto won in 2011.