Who are the 2015 Fielding Bible Award / Gold Glove Contenders? (Part I)

September 24, 2015

As we approach the postseason, teams like the Royals, Astros, and Pirates continue to show how important good defensive play can be to overall team success. While we are all looking forward to October baseball, the end of the regular season also affords us the opportunity to reflect on the players who have had praise-worthy seasons. I am one of the 12 voters for the Fielding Bible Awards, and here are some of the things I will consider as I fill out my ballot, as well as my speculation on who will win the Gold Glove Awards.

For Part I, we’ll be looking at catchers and infielders. Next week, we’ll have a Part II that covers pitchers and outfielders. (Note: In the tables below, the numbers next to the player names represent their Defensive Runs Saved totals.)

Catchers: Many of the usual suspects at catcher have had—relatively speaking—down seasons. Six-time Fielding Bible Award winner Yadier Molina has saved just six runs, and a recent thumb injury will likely cost him the chance to improve his total over the last few weeks of the season. Last year’s winner, Jonathan Lucroy, suffered a big toe fracture in April that cost him more than a month, and he has only saved three runs this season. That should open the door for a first-time winner, and there are many worthy candidates. Buster Posey likely sets the pace. His excellent pitch-framing and pitch-blocking are more subtle than the baserunner throw outs of big-armed catchers, but they are extremely valuable. His 14 Runs Saved are tied for the most in baseball and should make him the frontrunner for the Fielding Bible Award and the NL Gold Glove.

The AL is wide open with few big names at the top of the DRS standings. Salvador Perez, who has won the Gold Glove each of the last two seasons, has just four Runs Saved thanks in part to subpar pitch-framing. In contrast, Tyler Flowers of the White Sox, Jason Castro of the Astros, and Caleb Joseph of the Orioles are all defense-first catchers with a great chance of snagging their first Award.

Favorite Other Contenders
Fielding Bible Award Buster Posey (14) Kevin Plawecki (14)
Tyler Flowers (12)
AL Gold Glove Tyler Flowers (12) Jason Castro (11)
Caleb Joseph (11)
NL Gold Glove Buster Posey (14) Wilson Ramos (8)
Yadier Molina (6)

First Basemen: Unlike at catcher, the first base leaderboard looks pretty similar to the ones from recent seasons. A healthy Paul Goldschmidt has separated himself from the field with 16 DRS, which could lead to a second Fielding Bible Award and second Gold Glove Award in the last three seasons for him. Meanwhile, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, and Albert Pujols continue the strong glovework they have shown through most of their careers. One of the latter two will likely capture the AL Gold Glove, however it is interesting to note that Miguel Cabrera is enjoying his best defensive season.

Favorite Other Contenders
Fielding Bible Award Paul Goldschmidt (16) Adrian Gonzalez (9)
Yonder Alonso (9)
AL Gold Glove Mark Teixeira (5) Albert Pujols (4)
Miguel Cabrera (4)
NL Gold Glove Paul Goldschmidt (16) Adrian Gonzalez (9)
Yonder Alonso (9)

Second Basemen: Ian Kinsler was a hard-luck silver medalist in the Fielding Bible Award at second base in 2014, but with injuries limiting back-to-back winner Dustin Pedroia to 85 games—and potentially affecting his play—Kinsler seems a shoo-in to win his first Fielding Bible Award and Gold Glove. In the NL, Dee Gordon’s first season in Miami has gone very well both offensively and defensively, and he paces the DRS leaderboard in his new league by four runs. Behind both players, the major contenders are less-established players like Logan Forsythe, Addison Russell, and Carlos Sanchez.

Favorite Other Contenders
Fielding Bible Award Ian Kinsler (19) Dee Gordon (13)
Addison Russell (9)
AL Gold Glove Ian Kinsler (19) Logan Forsythe (7)
Carlos Sanchez (7)
NL Gold Glove Dee Gordon (13) Addison Russell (9)
Danny Espinosa (9)

Third Basemen: New blood has taken over on defense at third base as the old generation of elite defensive players like David Wright and Evan Longoria has been replaced by players like Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado. Both Arenado and Machado have been terrific defensively again this season, and I see Arenado as the favorite to win both the Fielding Bible Award and the NL Gold Glove. However, long-time defensive wizard Adrian Beltre turned back the clock this season for the Rangers. His 18 Runs Saved lead the position this season, and his 191 career DRS leads all players since BIS began tracking the statistic in 2003. It would be great to see Beltre win his fifth Fielding Bible Award and a fifth Gold Glove.

Favorite Other Contenders
Fielding Bible Award Nolan Arenado (15) Adrian Beltre (18)
Manny Machado (15)
AL Gold Glove Adrian Beltre (18) Manny Machado (15)
Josh Donaldson (9)
NL Gold Glove Nolan Arenado (15) Todd Frazier (10)
Matt Duffy (10)

Shortstops: Andrelton Simmons has been the best defensive player in baseball since he first reached the majors in 2012, so it’s a huge compliment to both Brandon Crawford of the Giants and Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks that they have managed to keep pace with him in DRS this season. Still, it seems voters would need to be bored with Simmons’ excellence to give the Fielding Bible Award or NL Gold Glove to anyone else. Meanwhile, all three of the shortstop DRS leaders play in the NL, which makes the AL Gold Glove race much more contested. With few full-season players standing out, I think midseason call-up Francisco Lindor has the edge. Lindor has saved seven runs in just 87 games this season and has been the biggest piece of the Indians’ defensive turnaround that has them within 4.5 games of the second AL Wild Card.

Favorite Other Contenders
Fielding Bible Award Andrelton Simmons (22) Brandon Crawford (22)
Nick Ahmed (20)
AL Gold Glove Francisco Lindor (7) Ryan Goins (8)
J.J. Hardy (6)
NL Gold Glove Andrelton Simmons (22) Brandon Crawford (22)
Nick Ahmed (20)

COMMENTS (7 Comments, most recent shown first)

(P.S. I had a little slip of the pen too: When I said that the metric "affects the voting," what I meant was that the metric affects the overall tabulation, because of its 25% role. It doesn't necessarily affect the voting, and in the noted instances, I'm saying it won't at all affect the result.)
10:09 AM Sep 26th
To Rgregory: But that doesn't affect what I said, does it? (BTW you had a little slip of the pen in how you described the voting. I figure you do know what it is -- not "BBWAA" but the league's managers and coaches.)

The metric affects the voting, but the reason it doesn't (IMO) affect what I said is that the managers and coaches have the hugest say. If a player who shows best on this particular metric is someone that none or essentially none of the managers or coaches would think of voting for -- which I think quite literally applies to the players I mentioned as having no chance -- then they really do have no chance. If it were players who were in the mix anyway, that would be a different story.
10:06 AM Sep 26th
Goins isn't anywhere near the (ahem) most surprising number here. Kevin Plawecki is credited with 14 DRS in 63 games, 576.2 innings caught. This projects, per BBR with BIS data, to 29 DRS over a season. This would put him in second place for the three-year average from 2012-14 per the Handbook.

How can we take this seriously?
8:45 AM Sep 26th

MarisFan, there has been a change in how Gold Gloves are awarded. 75% is based on BBWAA voting, but 25% is based on SABR's Defensive Index. Even if voters choose to ignore Fielding Metrics, they are now independently a part of how the Gold Gloves are decided.
2:29 AM Sep 26th
P.S. J. J. Hardy shows terribly on defensive Win Shares. I think the main thing he has going for him is that he also had a terrible offensive season, which might make some voters think he must have been great in the field. :-)
11:09 AM Sep 25th
MWeddell: Agree completely. We might say (might; I wouldn't) that Goins should be a contender for it, but I think it's hard to see that he has a realistic chance to actually get it. And Lindor similarly, although I guess it's not as far fetched.

Moreover, the only metric considered here was Runs Saved. I doubt that this will actually play a large role in the actual award. We've gotten to the point that it might play some role, but I'd say that's all. To the extent that some voters might be influenced by it, they might also be influenced by other metrics, including Win Shares, and Lindor shows as mediocre on that. I'd say the winner is very likely to be someone who's been around for a while and who had a full-time year. Voters who pay attention to metrics and who look or listen to anything about Win Shares will find a couple of decent candidates in Andrus and Alexei Ramirez. By the way there are three others who show better on Win Shares than Lindor, even on a per-game basis (Bogaerts, Aybar, Gregorius).

I really don't see why an article talking about who are the main candidates for the actual awards, as opposed to who are the best on Run Saved, would indicate the candidates based only on that metric, unless there's some reason to believe that this metric guides the award in any strong way.
11:07 AM Sep 25th
Ryan Goins in 2015 (1) has less than 400 innings played at shortstop and (2) has played more at 2B than at SS. I don't see how he could be a serious candidate for the AL Gold Glove at SS.
7:15 AM Sep 25th
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