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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Stat of the Week: Fielding Bible Awards Preview (Part II)

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This is the second of a two-part series on the top candidates for The Fielding Bible Awards, which will be announced next week. Part I can be found here.

The Fielding Bible Awards are voted on by a panel of 12 experts, who can vote based on visual observations and subjective judgement, as well as statistical analysis.

Part II of our preview looks at outfielders, pitchers and multi-position players.

(Defensive Runs Saved total in parentheses)
Left Fielders
Fielding Bible Favorites: Alex Gordon (18), Adam Duvall (17)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Adam Duvall
AL Gold Glove Favorite: Alex Gordon
Other top contenders: Corey Dickerson (16), Brett Gardner (8)

Alex Gordon and Brett Gardner have each won this award three times, and it looks like Gordon has the edge this season. Gordon looked a lot like his old self this season, particularly in June when he was named Co-Defensive Player of the Month. The combination of being able to cover a lot of ground and deter baserunner advancement with his throws was what differentiated him this season.

Duvall was again a standout, primarily with the Reds, as his playing time was minimal after being traded to the Braves. He’ll battle for the NL Gold Glove with one of the league’s most improved defenders, Corey Dickerson of the Pirates, who went from costing his team a run with his defense in 2017 to saving 16 runs in 2018.

Center Fielders
Fielding Bible Favorites: Lorenzo Cain (20), Ender Inciarte (17)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Lorenzo Cain
AL Gold Glove Favorite: Mike Trout (8)
Other top contenders: Kevin Kiermaier (14), Jake Marisnick (12), Delino DeShields (9)

No center fielder has won back-to-back Fielding Bible Awards in its 13-year history. The 2018 winner will prolong that trend, as 2017 winner Byron Buxton played only 28 games with the Twins in 2018. Buxton’s loss is Lorenzo Cain’s gain, as he’s the favorite thanks to an 11-run improvement in limiting baserunner advancement from 2017 to 2018 (from costing his team six runs to saving them five). Ender Inciarte of the Braves, who saved the most runs with his positioning and range in center field, will be a formidable foe.

Note that there is a differentiation in terms of playing time between Fielding Bible Awards rules and Gold Glove Awards rules . As a result, Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays is ineligible for a Gold Glove. Among those eligible, Mike Trout and his 14-run improvement in Defensive Runs Saved from 2017 to 2018 should have a good chance to win.

Right Fielders
Fielding Bible Favorites: Mookie Betts (20), Aaron Judge (14)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Yasiel Puig (6)
AL Gold Glove Favorite: Mookie Betts
Other top contenders: Mitch Haniger (9), Carlos Gomez (8)

If the Red Sox take Mookie Betts out of right field during the World Series, they’ll be moving the Defensive Runs Saved leader at the position, one who has a chance to win his third straight Fielding Bible Award in right field. Betts’ combination of everything, including two home run robberies (one shy of the MLB lead), put him atop the pack. Aaron Judge might have had a better chance to dethrone Betts had injuries not limited him to 90 games at the position.

The NL Gold Glove race will be interesting here. Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers has the best numbers of anyone eligible, though Jason Heyward of the Cubs (3 DRS) certainly merits consideration.

Pitchers
Fielding Bible Favorites: Zack Greinke (7), Julio Teheran (7), Masahiro Tanaka (7)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Zack Greinke
AL Gold Glove Favorite: Luis Severino (4)
Other top contenders: Patrick Corbin (6), Clayton Richard (5)

Pitcher is always a challenging position to vote on due to limited sample size. This may be the year that four-time Fielding Bible Award winer Dallas Keuchel gets dethroned, as he finished with only 3 DRS. Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks probably has a slight edge over Julio Teheran and Masahiro Tanaka here because of both his reputation (four Gold Glove Awards) and standout performance (for example, he allowed only two stolen bases in seven attempts). Diamondbacks pitchers were a model of fielding excellence, as Greinke’s teammate Patrick Corbin is also a legitimate contender.

Note again that the AL Gold Glove choice of Yankees pitcher Luis Severino is due to innings requirements that denied Tanaka consideration.

Multi-Position
Fielding Bible Favorites: Javier Baez (10), Harrison Bader (19)
Other top contenders: JaCoby Jones (21), Joey Wendle (5)

Any time BIS writes about middle-infield defense on either Twitter or atThe Athletic, readers write to sing the praises of Cubs utility infielder Javier Baez, who may not have the most impressive DRS numbers, but who looks the part of the top defender. Baez led non-first basemen in Good Fielding Plays, whether they be showing off his range, tagging, or throwing skills.

Baez does have good competition this year, particularly from outfielders Harrison Bader of the Cardinals and JaCoby Jones of the Tigers. Jones led all outfielders in DRS this season, splitting his time between center and left. Bader was another who looked the part of the great defender with solid play in center and right. He finished two runs off the outfield lead. 

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