He was originally an infielder by trade and still relishes occasional cameos playing at second base.
By now, however, Mookie Betts knows where he is most valued defensively.
“They pay me,” the Dodgers outfielder joked more than once this season, “to catch fly balls.”
On Tuesday, that fact was hammered home again as Betts was named a Gold Glove Award winner in right field for the sixth time in his career, giving him the most at the position of any active current player.
Betts beat out Daulton Varsho of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Juan Soto of the San Diego Padres for the National League award, which is his second as a member of the Dodgers and first since his five-year streak ended a season ago, when injuries impacted his performance on defense.
The 2022 season was a different story for the 30-year-old, who in 2018 was the American League most valuable player with the Boston Red Sox.
This season, Betts had the third-highest fielding percentage among qualified NL right fielders and was tied for fourth in assists with eight (his most from right field since 2019).
He had the second-most defensive runs saved at the position, as calculated by Sports Info Solutions, and was chosen as that outlet’s Fielding Bible Award winner in right field.
He also ranked behind only Varsho in Baseball Savant’s outs above average metric among NL right fielders.
Most importantly, he led all NL right fielders in SABR’s Defensive Index, which is used in conjunction with Major League Baseball manager and coaching staff voting to determine Gold Glove winners at each position.
Betts did make five starts at second base this season, usually as a way to give him rest at a less physically demanding position. But, once again, it was his play in right field — where he had several highlight catches and throws to aid the Dodgers’ highly touted defense — that stood out the most.
The Dodgers’ other Gold Glove Award finalist, pitcher Tyler Anderson, was topped by Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves.
The Angels also had two finalists in utility player Luis Rengifo and left fielder Brandon Marsh, who was still listed as an AL finalist despite being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in August.
They were also both beaten out, though, with DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees winning among AL utility players and Steven Kwan of the Cleveland Guardians taking the prize in left field.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.