Fielding Bible Awards Preview (Part II)

November 7, 2021
Last week and this week, we’re running a two-part series on the top candidates for The Fielding Bible Awards, which will be announced later this month.
 

The Fielding Bible Awards are voted on by a panel of experts who can vote based on whatever criteria they choose, including observation and subjective judgement, as well as statistical analysis. Each position has one overall winner, different from the Gold Gloves, which has one in each league.

This week, Part II of our preview looks at outfielders, pitchers, and our multi-position player award. The multi-position award was done differently this year. Bill James devised a system to allow voters to consider and reward players who demonstrate a combination of versatility and the ability to play high value positions (details are in The Bill James Handbook 2022).

(Defensive Runs Saved totals in parentheses for all awards except multi-position, which includes rank in Positional Value and Versatility Score)

Left field

Fielding Bible Favorite: Tyler O’Neill (11)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: O’Neill; AL Favorites: Alex Verdugo (7), Randy Arozarena (7), Andrew Benintendi (7)
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Raimel Tapia (7) (AL) Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (6)

O’Neill won the award in the shortened 2020 season and then proved his legitimacy with a strong 2021. He finished the season as the overall Defensive Runs Saved leader in left field, making him the favorite for both a Fielding Bible Award and a Gold Glove. Left field has been the place for repeat winners. There was Crawford (2008-2009), Gardner (2010-2011), Gordon (2012-2014) and Marte (2015-2016) in past seasons. The AL Gold Glove race is a true toss-up with Verdugo, Arozarena, and Benintendi as the co-leaders in Runs Saved.

Center Field

Fielding Bible Favorite: Michael A. Taylor (19)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: Harrison Bader (15); AL Favorites: Taylor, Kiké Hernández (14), Kevin Kiermaier (13)
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Jackie Bradley Jr. (9) (AL) Byron Buxton (10)

Taylor found a new home with the Royals and excelled with Kansas City from Day 1. He had finished as high as third in Runs Saved in center field with the Nationals in 2018, but led everyone at the position in 2021. He finished just ahead of Bader, who said before the season that winning a Gold Glove Award was a personal goal. Note that we listed Buxton among the contenders – he’s not eligible for the Gold Glove because of the award’s innings requirement, but he is eligible for a Fielding Bible Award.

Right Field

Fielding Bible Favorites: Joey Gallo (12), Kyle Tucker (11), Aaron Judge (11)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: Adam Duvall (9); AL Favorites: Gallo, Tucker, Judge
Other Top Contenders (NL): Avisaíl García (8) (AL) Max Kepler (9)

This is going to be a tight race. Gallo ended up edging out one of his new teammates, Aaron Judge, as well as Tucker, for the Runs Saved lead among right fielders. Judge has been a top contender in years past but has repeatedly run into Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. The common thread between the two Yankees is a great throwing arm. Each had more Runs Saved from their arm than they did from their range. Tucker and Manuel Margot tied for the most Range Runs Saved in right field.

Pitcher

Fielding Bible Favorite: Dallas Keuchel (12)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: Zack Wheeler (5) AL Favorite: Keuchel
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Adam Wainwright (3), Marcus Stroman (1) (AL) José Berríos (5), Zack Greinke (5)

Keuchel was the runaway leader in Runs Saved by a pitcher and has a strong chance to win his fifth Fielding Bible Award, which would be the most at the position. Position eligibility requirements for the Gold Gloves require pitchers to average an inning per game for their team's first 142 games, thus taking a few contenders for the NL Award (Taijuan Walker and last year's winner Max Fried) out of consideration. Greinke, who won the award in 2018 and 2019, might be Keuchel’s top competition.

Multi-Position

Fielding Bible Favorite: Chris Taylor (highest Positional Value and Versatility Score)

Other Top Contenders: Leury García (second-highest score), Josh Rojas (third-highest), Kris Bryant (fourth-highest)

By Bill James’ scoring system, Taylor emerged as the favorite, even though he finished with a negative Runs Saved total. He played a considerable amount at important positions – 62 games in center field, 46 games at second base, and 23 games at shortstop. Garcia’s credentials are also impressive. He played at least 10 games at every infield and outfield position except for first base.

The Fielding Bible Award winners will be announced in the near future. Stay tuned!

 
 

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