Last year, we discussed how the Fielding Bible Awards had become a more legitimate exercise than the Gold Gloves in determining the top defensive players in the game. Namely because the Gold Gloves are awarded almost exclusively based off reputation, voted on by coaches. Many of the Gold Glove voters only see certain players a handful of time per year, and also tend to use more traditional defensive stats like errors or fielding percentage (or simply go off memory alone) to pick a winner.
As we’ve written all season, there are now more modern defensive stats and systems that tend to tell us more about a fielder.
And it should come as no surprise that the Mariners this year took home the most honors in the annual Fielding Bible awards, announced today. Franklin Gutierrez was named the game’s top center fielder, Ichiro was the best right fielder and Jack Wilson the best shortstop.
The Fielding Bible is an authoritative book on defense published by John Dewan, a leading researcher in the field of baseball data. Dewan is the founder of Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) has come up with a number of defensive ratings systems over the years with data compiled by the research staff he employs in Philadelphia. According to his Defensive Runs Saved system, which we wrote about during spring training, the Mariners were the top defensive team in baseball this past season with 109 defensive runs saved.
The Fielding Bible Awards are selected by a panel of 10 experts, including Dewan, baseball columnists Peter Gammons and Joe Posnanski and sabermetric guru Bill James. Many of the panel members either created some of the newer statistical defensive measurements used in the game today, or are well-versed in them.
Voting methodology is the same as BBWAA members use to select MVP winners. You pick your top-10 players at each position, with first place getting 10 points, second place getting nine points, thir place getting eight and so on down the line.
Gutierrez recevied the second-highest voting score from the panel at 97 points, trailing only the 99 points recevied for left field by Carl Crawford of the Rays.
Photo Credit: Tony Dejak/AP
Here is the complete list of winners, straight off the release provided by the awards committee.
FIRST BASE–ALBERT PUJOLS, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (95 POINTS)
Four Fielding Bible Awards in four years.
SECOND BASE–AARON HILL, TORONTO BLUE JAYS (76)
Hill wins the tie-breaker on the strength of four first-place votes, as opposed to only one for runner-up Dustin Pedroia.
THIRD BASE–RYAN ZIMMERMAN, WASHINGTON NATIONALS (84)
Third base is a strong, deep defensive position in baseball right now, but Zimmerman has set himself apart by becoming the leader in Defensive Runs Saved over the last three years.
SHORTSTOP–JACK WILSON, PITTSBURGH PIRATES/SEATTLE MARINERS (86) Even though he split time between leagues, Wilson was the best shorstop in baseball this year, leading all shorstops in Runs Saved by a wide margin (27 compared to Brendan Ryan’s 19).
LEFT FIELD–CARL CRAWFORD, TAMPA BAY RAYS (99)
No player has ever won with a perfect record (10 first-place votes from 10 panelists), but Crawford came as close as possible, garnering nine out of ten possible first-place votes. His 99 total points is an all-time record.
CENTER FIELD–FRANKLIN GUTIERREZ, SEATTLE MARINERS (97)
Winner of the 2008 Fielding Bible Award for right field, Gutierrez moved over to center field in 2009. His 31 Runs Saved were tied with Chone Figgins for the most in baseball.
RIGHT FIELD–ICHIRO SUZUKI, SEATTLE MARINERS (93)
Hunter Pence gave Ichiro a run for his money, but Ichiro finished with 93 points to Pence’s 84. This is Ichiro’s second Fielding Bible Award.
CATCHER–YADIER MOLINA, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (96)
Everyone knows about Molina’s incredible throwing arm (well, maybe not the eight guys he picked off this year), but Molina was also the third-best bad-pitch-blocking catcher in baseball behind Carlos Ruiz and Jason Varitek.
PITCHER–MARK BUEHRLE, CHICAGO WHITE SOX (86)
Buerhle has defensive chops, but his ability to hold runners is legendary. In the last four years he’s allowed a total of 15 stolen bases, picked off 14 baserunners, and thrown over to first–only to have the runner break for second and be thrown out–16 times.
And here is a full list of the judges on the voting panel.
1. Bill James is a baseball writer and analyst and the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox
2. 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
3. The man who created Strat-O-Matic Baseball–Hal Richman
4. Named the best sports columnist in America by the AP Sports Editors, Joe Posnanski is a Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated and occasional columnist for the Kansas City Star
5. For over twenty years, BIS owner John Dewan has collected, published and analyzed in-depth baseball statistics and is the author of The Fielding Bible and The Fielding Bible–Volume II
6. Mat Olkin is a sabermetrics consultant to major league teams
7. Hall-of-Famer Peter Gammons serves as a studio analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and Baseball Today
8. Rob Neyer writes about baseball for ESPN.com and appears regularly on ESPN radio and ESPNews
9. Todd Radcliffe is Lead Video Scout at Baseball Info Solutions
10. The Tom Tango Fan Poll represents the results of a poll taken at the website, Tango on Baseball (www.tangotiger.net)
The three tie-breakers are Steve Moyer, president of BIS, Dan Casey, veteran Video Scout at BIS, and Dave Studenmund, one of the owners of www.hardballtimes.com and the editor of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
Tough to complain about East Coast bias on that panel, since ESPN columnist Neyer is based in Portland, Ore. while Tango and Olkin are employed as freelance consultants by the Mariners.
One important difference between the Fielding Bible Awards and the Gold Gloves is that the Gold Gloves hand out prizes for both leagues. In the Fielding Bible Awards, it’s for the best fielders in the game.
Dewan noted in a release that Mariners shortstop Wilson will likely be penalized in Gold Glove voting since he split time between the AL and NL this season.
“I predict that Wilson will not win a Gold Glove in either the National or the American League this year,” Dewan said, “even though our 10 voters thought he was the best-fielding shorstop in Major League Baseball.”