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  • October 30th, 2016

    October 30, 2016:
    Fielding Bible Announces Award Winners for 2016

    Posted by Christine E. at 2:02 pm in Baseball,Old Friends,Red Sox No Comments

    Who was the best-fielding shortstop in Major Leagues Baseball in 2016?
    Was it Andrelton Simmons of the Angels?
    Or the Giants’ Brandon Crawford?
    Or maybe Addison Russell of the Cubs?
    Or the guy who played SS on your favorite team?

    If you only follow the Gold Glove awards, you won’t have to choose just one, because two different players will win a Gold Glove award for his respective American or National League play. But what if you just want to know (or at least be able to argue about) who was the absolute best fielder at each position last year? Then the Fielding Bible Awards are for YOU!

    After each of the eleven seasons from 2006 to 2016, the twelve judges of the Fielding Bible Awards have publicly (and before the Gold Gloves were announced) stood up and said fearlessly: “THIS was the best fielder at his position in Major League Baseball THIS YEAR!

    So, who was the best shortstop in the major leagues last year? Well, as announced today in the just-released Bill James Handbook 2017, according to the twelve judges (listed below) it was Simmons, but by the closest of margins (one point) over Crawford. This is the fourth year in a row that Simmons has won at shortstop, considered by many to be the premier defensive position in baseball. No one has yet won five Fielding Bible Awards in a row at ANY position. (Mark Buehrle, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols have all won four in a row at their position, but all of their consecutive streaks have ended.)

    The Angels’ shortstop, fresh off a trade from the Braves last offseason, beat the Giants’ middle infielder by the slimmest of margins (106 to 105 points out of a possible 120 points). No one is close to Simmons’ five-year total of 131 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). In fact, Crawford is second in those five years with 62, less than half of Simmons’ total. However, Crawford did edge out Simmons in 2016 DRS, 20 to 18. Addison Russell of the Cubs was also in the top three with 19 DRS.

    Some other very, very close races added to the drama this year. Houston Astro Dallas Keuchel won his third Fielding Bible Award in a row, going down to the wire with Zack Greinke of the Arizona
    Diamondbacks.

    In addition to Simmons and Keuchel, four other players were repeat award winners this year, making six multiple winners among this year’s group of ten. Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox won his fourth award (in six years) as baseball’s best defensive second baseman. Three players are two-time winners. Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies) at third base, Starling Marte (Pittsburgh Pirates) in left field, and Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants) at catcher all repeated from last year.

    There were four first-time winners: first baseman Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs), center fielder Kevin Pillar (Toronto Blue Jays), right fielder Mookie Betts (Red Sox), and multi-position player Javier Baez (Cubs).

    ***

    The 2016 Winners

    We asked our panel of 12 experts to rank 10 players at each position on a scale from one to ten. We then use the same voting technique as the Major League Baseball MVP voting. A first place vote gets 10 points, second place 9 points, third place 8 points, etc. Total up the points for each player and the player with the most points wins the award. A perfect score is 120. Each judge’s votes on each position are published annually in the Bill James Handbook, which reaches booksellers next week and are available now at www.actasports.com. Here are the ten Fielding Bible Award winners for the 2016 season:

    First Base – Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
    Anthony Rizzo won his first Fielding Bible Award in 2016, but he won an even bigger battle eight years ago. Rizzo was diagnosed with cancer at age 18 in his first year of professional baseball in the Boston Red Sox organization. It was then-Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester who gave him hope that he could still be a major leaguer. Because Lester also had cancer at a young age, and beat it. It is not coincidental that they are now Chicago Cub teammates. Rizzo saved 11 runs for the Cubs defensively in 2016 leading all MLB first basemen. He received seven of 12 first place votes and out-pointed runner-up Brandon Belt 113 to 101.

    Second Base – Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
    Dustin Pedroia now has four Fielding Bible Awards and four Gold Gloves. By the time you read this he might have five Gold Gloves, but he’ll have to beat out Tiger Ian Kinsler, the 2015 FBA winner and the 2016 FBA runner-up at second base. The voting wasn’t particularly close for the 2016 Fielding Bible Awards (114 to 104) but Kinsler had a great year defensively as well. Pedroia and Kinsler led all major league second basemen with 12 runs saved in 2016.

    Third Base – Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
    It’s back-to-back Fielding Bible Awards for Nolen Arenado. He received all but one of the first place votes at third base for a total of 119 points. He also finished well ahead in Defensive Runs Saved, saving 20 runs for the Rockies, a good margin ahead of the 15 runs saved by Adrian Beltre (Texas) and Kyle Seager (Seattle). Arenado also led all fielders (not just third basemen) recording 75 Good Fielding Plays where he made a play that was not likely to be an out or prevent an advancement with an average play.

    Shortstop – Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels
    Four years in a row for Andrelton Simmons, but by the slimmest of margins (106 to 105 points) over Brandon Crawford of the Giants. This, after Simmons and Crawford finished first and second on every ballot in the 2015 voting. No one is close to Simmons’ five-year total of 131 Defensive Runs Saved. Crawford is second in the five years with 62, less than half of Simmons’ total. However, Crawford did edge out Simmons in 2016 DRS, 20 to 18. Addison Russell of the Cubs was also in the top three with 19 runs saved.

    Left Field – Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
    It’s not the norm for your left fielder to have a wickedly strong throwing arm, but that is the case with Starling Marte. He led all outfielders in 2016 with 16 baserunner kills (direct throw to a base to nab the runner) with the next best left fielder at 9 (Ryan Braun). Throwing accounted for nine of Marte’s MLB-leading 19 Defensive Runs Saved in left field. His ability to cover ground accounted for six more runs saved and making Good Plays while avoiding Misplays added another four runs saved, an all-around tremendous defensive performance for repeat-winner Marte. Marte’s margin of victory over runner-up Yankee Brett Gardner was huge (119 to 90 points).

    Center Field – Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays
    Kevin Pillar upstaged Kevin Kiermaier. It was not easy as Kiermaier set a record for the highest single season total of Defensive Runs Saved in 2015 with 42. But in 2016 Pillar continued his reign as King of the Web Gem and added in 21 runs saved to boot. Kiermaier did have 25 DRS for the Tampa Bay Rays, but when it came to making catches, Pillar saved 47 bases compared to 34 for Kiermaier. The Fielding Bible Award voters rewarded Pillar with his first award in a close vote, 109 points to 106 points for Kiermaier.

    Right Field – Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
    Mookie’s full name is Markus Lynn Betts, intentionally chosen by his parents so his initials are MLB. He is MLB and he is the best in MLB. Betts had the highest total of Defensive Runs Saved among any defender in baseball in 2016 with 32. He finished 10 runs ahead of runner-up Adam Eaton of the White Sox and 13 points ahead of him in the voting (116 to 103). See page 57 for a dramatic rundown of the battle for right field defensive supremacy during the 2016 season between Betts and Eaton.

    Catcher – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
    Buster Posey excels at every aspect of catching. There are five categories of defense that are measured in Defensive Runs Saved (Pitcher Handling, Controlling the Running Game, Handling Bunts, Good Plays and Misplays, and Getting Extra Strikes). Posey’s MLB-leading total of 23 Defensive Runs Saved breaks down with an above-average number in each one of these categories with 1, 2, 4, 5, and 11 runs saved by category, respectively. Fielding Bible voters acknowledged Posey with a first place vote on every ballot giving him his second straight Fielding Bible Award.

    Pitcher – Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
    One day Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks) will win a Fielding Bible Award, but 2016 was not to be as the last ballot to come in gave a repeat award to Dallas Keuchel. Greinke had more first place votes than Keuchel, four vs. three, but an eighth place vote and a fifth place vote for Greinke did him in. The final point total was 103 to 100, Keuchel over Greinke. The voting panel recognized defensive excellence among pitchers throughout Major League Baseball, also giving first place votes to Bartolo Colon-Mets (3), Masahiro Tanaka-Yankees (1) and Jake Arrieta-Cubs (1).

    Multi-Position – Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
    Javy Baez was the epitome of defensive excellence at multiple positions. He saved 11 runs at second base, 4 runs at shortstop and one run at third base for the Cubs defensively in 2016. He also demonstrated his versatility by playing a few innings at first base and left field as well. Playing a lot of positions (five) and playing them well (16 DRS), that’s what the Multi-Position Fielding Bible Award is all about. Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson was runner up in the voting (90 points vs. 105 for Baez). Dyson played all three outfield positions and saved 19 runs in total. Cub manager Joe Maddon encouraged versatility and was also rewarded by Baez’ teammate Kris Bryant who played six different positions and saved 10 runs. Bryant was third in the voting among multi-position players, and the Cubs led all of baseball with the highest total of Defensive Runs Saved as a team (107).

    ***

    Background of the Fielding Bible Awards

    While The Fielding Bible Volume I-V puts a lot of emphasis on the numbers, especially Defensive Runs Saved and the Range and Positioning System, we feel that visual observation and subjective judgment are still very important parts of determining the best defensive players. Also, we believe people have a right to know who is voting and all the players they are voting for. Therefore, in setting up the Fielding Bible Awards, we took the following steps:

    We appointed a panel of experts to vote. We have a panel of 12 experts plus three “tie-breaker” ballots. (See below.)

    We rate everybody in one group. The Gold Glove vote is divided into National League and American League. We make ours different by putting everybody together. Besides, is playing shortstop in the American League one thing and playing shortstop in the National League a different thing, or are they really very much the same thing? A few years back we had a great example of this decision. Without the Fielding Bible Award, Jack Wilson wins nada, because he switched leagues in mid-year. According to our panelists (and unlike the Gold Glove voters), Jack was the best fielding shortstop in baseball in 2009. Period. He deserved to be recognized for that.

    We use a 10-man ballot and a 10-point scale. We use a 10-man ballot. We give 10 points for first place, 9 points for second place, etc., down to 1 point for tenth place. We feel strongly that a 10-man ballot with weighted positions leads to more accurate outcomes.

    We defined the list of candidates. Only players who actually were regulars at the position are candidates. This eliminates the possibility of a vote going to somebody who wasn’t really playing the position.

    We are publishing the balloting. We summarize the voting at each position, clearly identifying whom everybody voted for. Publishing the actual vote totals encourages the voters to take their votes more seriously. Also, we feel the public will have more respect for the voting if they have more insight into the process.

    A perfect score is 120 points. If all 12 voters place one player first on their ballot, he scores 120. Only one player had a perfect score of 120 this year: Buster Posey. And here are the tie-breaker rules (which came into play in our very first year, in 2010, and in 2013). They are applied one at a time until we have a winner:

    Most first-place votes wins.

    Count the tie-breaker ballots, highest point tally wins.

    Award goes to player with the most Bases Saved.

    ***
    This Year’s Judges:

    Ballots were due four days after the end of the regular season. Here is this year’s panel:

    Since you have this book, you probably know Bill James, a baseball writer and analyst published for more than thirty years. Bill is the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox.

    The BIS Video Scouts at Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) study every game of the season, multiple times, charting a huge list of valuable game details.

    As an MLB Network on-air host of MLB Now and MLB Tonight, Brian Kenny brings an analytical perspective on the game of baseball to a national television audience. He also won a 2003 Sports Emmy Award as host of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

    Dave Cameron is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs. Until recently, he resided in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where the local minor league team once forced him to watch Michael Morse play shortstop for an entire season. He has appreciated defensive value ever since.

    Doug Glanville played nine seasons in Major League Baseball and was well known for his excellent outfield defense. Currently, he is a baseball analyst at ESPN on Baseball Tonight, SportsCenter, Wednesday Night Baseball, and ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to The New York Times, and he is the author of the book The Game from Where I Stand.

    The man who created Strat-O-Matic Baseball, Hal Richman, continues to lead his company’s annual in-depth analysis of each player’s season. Hal cautions SOM players that his voting on this ballot may or may not reflect the eventual fielding ratings for players in his game. Ballots were due prior to the completion of his annual research effort to evaluate player defense.

    Named the best sports columnist in America in 2012 by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, Joe Posnanski is the National Columnist at NBC Sports.

    For over twenty-five years, BIS owner and CEO John Dewan has collected, analyzed, and published in-depth baseball statistics and analysis. He has authored or co-authored four volumes of The Fielding Bible.

    Mark Simon has been a researcher for ESPN Stats & Information since 2002 and currently helps oversee the Stats & Information blog and Twitter (@espnstatsinfo). He is a regular contributor on baseball (often writing on defense) for ESPNNY.com and ESPN.com, and is the author of Numbers Don’t Lie: The Biggest Numbers in Yankees History (published by Triumph Books in June 2016).

    Peter Gammons serves as on-air and online analyst for MLB Network, MLB.com and NESN (New England Sports Network). He is the 56th recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing given by the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America).

    Rob Neyer has been a working writer for 25 years, and most recently has contributed to The New York Times, Vice Sports, and Complex. When he’s not writing, he’s thinking about not writing. Rob will live in Portland, Oregon for as long as they let him.

    The Tom Tango Fan Poll represents the results of a poll taken at the website Tango on Baseball. Besides hosting the website, Tom is the Senior Data Architect—Stats at MLBAM and is the co-author of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball.

    Our three tie-breakers are Ben Jedlovec, President of Baseball Info Solutions and co-author of The Fielding Bible—Volume III and The Fielding Bible—Volume IV, Dan Casey, veteran Video Scout and Senior Operations Analyst at BIS, and Sean Forman, the founder of Baseball-Reference.com.

    For further information, contact Greg Pierce at ACTA Sports, 800-397-2282, gfapierce@actapublications.com.)

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