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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

2020 Fielding Bible Awards Preview (Part 2)

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By MARK SIMON

This is the second in a two-part series on the top candidates for The Fielding Bible Awards, which will be announced next Thursday.

The Fielding Bible Awards are voted on by a panel of 12 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 year, the Gold Gloves at each position will be awarded based entirely on the SDI metric that had previously accounted for about 25% of the vote.

Part I of our preview looked at catchers and infielders. Part II looks at outfielders, pitcher, and the multi-position award.

(Defensive Runs Saved totals in parentheses)

Left Field

Fielding Bible Favorite: Tyler O’Neill (9)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: O’Neill; AL Favorite: Kyle Tucker (3)
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Shogo Akiyama (4), David Peralta (-1) (AL) Alex Gordon (1), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (-3)

Of the favorites for the Fielding Bible Awards, O’Neill is probably the least known. He had a standout season with the glove, leading all left fielders in Runs Saved, even as he struggled at the plate for the Cardinals. His strength was in catching balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark.

There may be some sentimental support among Fielding Bible voters for another Missouri-based left fielder, Alex Gordon of the Royals. Gordon announced his retirement at the end of the season. He is the leader in Runs Saved at the position since we began compiling the stat in 2003. He's won the award four times, most recently in 2018.

Center Field

Fielding Bible Favorites: Byron Buxton (11), Kevin Kiermaier (10)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: Trent Grisham (7); AL Favorites: Buxton, Kiermaier
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Cody Bellinger (5), Ronald Acuña Jr (2) (AL) Luis Robert (8), Ramón Laureano (5)

There are two great contenders for this award, which was won by Lorenzo Cain the last two years. Buxton and Kiermaier were separated by one Run Saved in 2020. Each is an outstanding defensive player with great speed and skill. The difference between them this year: Buxton had more value in Range & Positioning. Kiermaier was the leader in Outfield Arm Runs Saved.

There's an added wrinkle here in that Kiermaier was not a finalist for the Gold Glove Award despite his gaudy Runs Saved numbers. Robert and Laureano also had strong seasons, with Laureano improving from -7 Runs Saved in center field in 2019 to 5 in 2020.

Right Field

Fielding Bible Favorites: Joey Gallo (13), Mookie Betts (11)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: Betts; AL Favorite: Gallo
Other Top Contenders (NL) Jason Heyward (1), Charlie Blackmon (-1) (AL) Anthony Santander (8), Clint Frazier (4)

Betts is going for his fourth Fielding Bible Award and we should note that voting took place before his display of defensive dominance this postseason. Betts has the most Runs Saved of any player in the last five seasons and he ranked second among right fielders in 2020.

Gallo has the best chance of dethroning him. After primarily playing other positions in the past, Gallo shifted to right this season and fared great both chasing down fly balls and throwing out baserunners. His 13 Runs Saved trailed only Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (15) for most in the majors.

Pitcher

Fielding Bible Favorite: Max Fried (5)

NL Gold Glove Favorite: Fried; AL Favorite: Griffin Canning (3),
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Kyle Hendricks (3), Alec Mills (3) (AL) Zach Plesac (2), Kenta Maeda (1)

Fried’s athleticism on the mound is reminiscent of another left-handed pitcher, his former teammate, Dallas Keuchel. Fried also has a great pickoff move to limit basestealers. His four pickoffs tied Tyler Anderson of the Giants for the MLB lead. Put all that together and he was the leader in Runs Saved at the position.


Multi-Position

Fielding Bible Favorites: Kiké Hernández (9), Tommy Edman (6)
Other Top Contenders: Alex Verdugo (7), David Fletcher (4)

This is a challenging award to try to predict. Hernández, Edman, and Fletcher all play all over the field, are very good in their primary positions, and are no worse than average wherever you put them.

Verdugo is the top candidate who is strictly an outfielder with last year’s winner, Cody Bellinger, now a full-time center fielder. Verdugo handled left field at Fenway Park particularly well, totaling 8 Runs Saved in 22 games there. He cost Boston a run in right field.

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