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Tenth Annual Fielding Bible Awards
The Ten Best Fielders at Their Position in 2015
by ACTA Sports,
November 5, 2015

In 2015, the voting for The Fielding Bible Awards was the most decisive in the ten-year history of voting.  The twelve-person voting panel was unanimous on three different positions and only one position was as close as four points separating first and second place. At one of the unanimous positions, Kevin Kiermaier made things easy for the judges. Playing center field for the Tampa Bay Rays, Kiermaier established a new record for the most Defensive Runs Saved in one season by a single player ever recorded (42).

Every one of the ten winners of The Fielding Bible Award this year was also either the outright MLB leader in Defensive Runs Saved for his position or was tied for the lead. This proves that today's baseball experts trust and rely on the fact that the new defensive metrics can truly measure defense.

Four players were repeat award winners this year. The expert panel rewarded Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons with his third unanimous Fielding Bible Award in a row at shortstop. Former teammate Jason Heyward, who patrolled right field for the St. Louis Cardinals, won his third award in four years. Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros won his second in a row as a pitcher, and Arizona's first baseman Paul Goldschmidt won his second in the last three years.

There were six first time winners: catcher Buster Posey (San Francisco), second baseman Ian Kinsler (Detroit), third baseman Nolan Arenado (Colorado), left fielder Starling Marte (Pittsburgh), center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (Tampa Bay), and multi-position player Ender Inciarte (Arizona). For the second year, the Fielding Bible Awards recognized a player who played great defense at several different positions.

John Dewan, the owner of Baseball Info Solutions and the co-author of The Fielding Bible, Volume IV, explains how The Fielding Bible Award winners are determined: “We asked our panel of twelve experts to rank 10 players at each position on a scale from one to ten. We then use the same voting technique as the Major League Baseball MVP voting. A first place vote gets 10 points, second place 9 points, third place 8 points, etc. Total up the points for each player and the player with the most points wins the award.  A perfect score is 120.”

Two things differentiate The Fielding Bible Awards from the Gold Glove Awards. First, unlike the Gold Gloves, which are given for both the American and the National leagues, only one player is chosen for each position in Major League Baseball. “We really are trying to say, ‘This was the best fielder in 2015 at this position in the major leagues,’” says Dewan. This year, seven of the winners were from the National League and three from the American League.

Second, also unlike the Gold Gloves, the voting on The Fielding Bible Awards is transparent. The voting for each position is documented inThe Bill James Handbook 2016, which is published on November 1, so that fans can see which of their favorite players received votes and where they ranked against other great fielders in the MLB.


Kevin Kiermaier


Below are The Fielding Bible Awards for the 2015 season:

First Base – Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
“The Arizona Diamondbacks were the best defensive team in baseball in 2015,” says Dewan, “and Paul Goldschmidt is one of the reasons why.” Goldschmidt saved 18 runs with his defense, showing tremendous range for a first baseman, especially to his right. He was listed first on 10 of the 12 ballots receiving 118 out of a possible 120 points in the voting.

Previous Winners:
2014
Adrian Gonzalez
2009
Albert Pujols
2013
Paul Goldschmidt
2008
Albert Pujols
2012
Mark Teixeira
2007
Albert Pujols
2011
Albert Pujols
2006
Albert Pujols
2010
Daric Barton
 
 


Second Base – Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
Ian Kinsler was runner-up to Dustin Pedroia in the voting for The Fielding Bible Award in 2014. “But this year, partially thanks to Pedroia's injury but mostly due to his defensive brilliance, Kinsler wins his first Fielding Bible Award,” says Dewan. Over the last three years, Kinsler was by far the leader in Defensive Runs Saved with 50 compared to DJ LeMahieu's second highest total of 29 runs saved. Kinsler saved 19 runs for the Tigers in 2015 and finished with 106 points in the voting. Dee Gordon was second in Runs Saved (13) at second base in MLB and was also second in the voting.

Previous Winners:
2014
Dustin Pedroia
2009
Aaron Hill
2013
Dustin Pedroia
2008
Brandon Phillips
2012
Darwin Barney
2007
Aaron Hill
2011
Dustin Pedroia
2006
Orlando Hudson
2010
Chase Utley
 
 


Third Base – Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
His teammates gave him the nickname "Sharknado" because of his aggressive approach charging groundballs and his ability to make whirling throws to gobble up hitters at first base. “Nolan Arenado has been consistently superb defensively since arriving on the scene for the Rockies in 2013,” says Dewan, “saving 30, 16 and 18 runs in the three years he's been in the majors.” Arenado garnered 116 points in the voting. Previous Fielding Bible Award winners, Adrian Beltre and Manny Machado, finishing second and third with 102 and 101 points respectively.

Previous Winners:
2014
Josh Donaldson
2009
Ryan Zimmerman
2013
Manny Machado
2008
Adrian Beltre
2012
Adrian Beltre
2007
Pedro Feliz
2011
Adrian Beltre
2006
Adrian Beltre
2010
Evan Longoria
 
 


Shortstop – Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
Here are the words used to describe Andrelton Simmons in The Fielding Bible—Volume IV: "long, freakishly athletic, and extremely smooth", "quick hands", flawless transfers", "best arm strength in the game", "makes throws from deep in the hole routine." “This pretty much describes everything needed to become the ultimate defensive shortstop in baseball,” says Dewan. “It is no surprise that he is already being compared to Ozzie Smith in his short career thus far.” It is now three straight years that panelists have made Simmons a unanimous choice for the shortstop Fielding Bible Award. Simmons and Giant Brandon Crawford were first and second on every ballot.

Previous Winners:
2014
Andrelton Simmons
2009
Jack Wilson
2013
Andrelton Simmons
2008
Jimmy Rollins
2012
Brendan Ryan
2007
Troy Tulowitzki
2011
Troy Tulowitzki
2006
Adam Everett
2010
Troy Tulowitzki
 
 


Left Field – Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
Starling Marte leapt into the void left by an injury to Alex Gordon, the left field Fielding Bible Award winner of the last three years. It is not without merit. “Marte is a center fielder playing left,” says Dewan, “covering more ground than any other left fielder in the game.” Marte is a constant source of highlight-reel plays, and he gunned down baserunners like no other with 14 baserunner kills, the best in the majors in 2015. He received 116 out of 120 points in the voting.

Previous Winners:
2014
Alex Gordon
2009
Carl Crawford
2013
Alex Gordon
2008
Carl Crawford
2012
Alex Gordon
2007
Eric Byrnes
2011
Brett Gardner
2006
Carl Crawford
2010
Brett Gardner
 
 


Center Field – Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
Kevin Kiermaier did what no other defensive player has ever done. He recorded 42 Defensive Runs Saved, the highest total since Baseball Info Solutions developed this metric in 2003. “The thing that sets Kiermaier apart from all other center fielders is his ability to range deep in center stealing doubles and triples right and left,” says Dewan. “The metric that really highlights this is: he saved an incredible 65 bases on the plays he made compared to an average center fielder. That's a lot of dead doubles and triples!” The next best center fielder in bases saved was Arizona's A.J. Pollock, far behind with 38. Kiermaier was a unanimous choice by the voters.  Royal Lorenzo Cain was second on every ballot.

Previous Winners:
2014
Juan Lagares
2009
Franklin Gutierrez
2013
Carlos Gomez
2008
Carlos Beltran
2012
Mike Trout
2007
Andruw Jones
2011
Austin Jackson
2006
Carlos Beltran
2010
Michael Bourn
 
 


Right Field – Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals
Jason Heyward now has six straight years of double-digit Defensive Runs Saved and three Fielding Bible Awards. “Heyward has been able to accomplish this by starting and finishing every play extremely well,” says Dewan. “He excels at picking up the ball off the bat and rarely takes the wrong angle. He is not afraid to dive, demonstrating tremendous body control when doing so.” Heyward  plays deeper than most right fielders enabling him to track down deeply hit balls saving extra bases. Every Fielding Bible Award voter listed Jason Heyward first on their ballot in 2015.

Previous Winners:
2014
Jason Heyward
2009
Ichiro Suzuki
2013
Gerardo Parra
2008
Franklin Gutierrez
2012
Jason Heyward
2007
Alex Rios
2011
Justin Upton
2006
Ichiro Suzuki
2010
Ichiro Suzuki
 
 


Catcher – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
After so many years of unparalleled offense as a catcher, Buster Posey has now been recognized for his defense as well with his first Fielding Bible Award. “Posey has always been superb defensively,” says Dewan. “He has averaged 12 Defensive Runs Saved per year over the last six years and was tied with Kevin Plawecki for the lead among backstops with 17 in 2015. It's just that when there is a person on the planet by the name of Yadier Molina, it's hard to win an award for defensive excellence at the catcher position.” But according to the FBA judges, Posey  outperformed Molina in 2015 and was recognized by the voters with 116 of 120 points for the award.

Previous Winners:
2014
Jonathan Lucroy
2009
Yadier Molina
2013
Yadier Molina
2008
Yadier Molina
2012
Yadier Molina
2007
Yadier Molina
2011
Matt Wieters
2006
Ivan Rodriguez
2010
Yadier Molina
 
 


Pitcher – Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
Dallas Keuchel helped himself reach 20 wins for the Astros by saving the most runs defensively as a pitcher in the game. “Those 13 Defensive Runs Saved are more than any pitcher could help himself with the bat,” says Dewan. “For example, Madison Bumgarner, the best hitting pitcher in baseball, had 10 Runs Created in a super year with the bat for a pitcher.” Keuchel had the second best DRS figure posted by a pitcher since BIS began tracking the stat. (Kenny Rogers had 15 in 2008.) Keuchel outpointed Zach Greinke 115-107 in the voting.

Previous Winners:
2014
Dallas Keuchel
2009
Mark Buehrle
2013
R.A. Dickey
2008
Kenny Rogers
2012
Mark Buehrle
2007
Johan Santana
2011
Mark Buehrle
2006
Greg Maddux
2010
Mark Buehrle
 
 


Multi-Position – Ender Inciarte, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ender Inciarte is the second winner of the new Multi-Position Fielding Bible Award, which was first awarded to Lorenzo Cain in 2014. “This position had the closest ballot of the year as Inciarte received 94 points in the voting compared to 90 points for Cubs rookie Addison Russell,” says Dewan. Inciarte showed extreme versatility and excellence manning every outfield position.  He saved 12 runs in left, 4 runs in center, and 13 runs in right field defensively for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Previous Winners: 2014   Lorenzo Cain
Here is background information on The Fielding Bible Awards:
 “While The Fielding Bible, The Fielding Bible—Volume II, The Fielding Bible— Volume III, and The Fielding Bible—Volume IV put a lot of emphasis on the numbers, especially Defensive Runs Saved and the Range and Positioning System, we feel that visual observation and subjective judgment are still very important parts of determining the best defensive players,” says Dewan. “Also, we believe people have a right to know who is voting and all the players they are voting for. Therefore, in setting up the Fielding Bible Awards, we took the following steps.”
  1. We appointed a panel of experts to vote. We have a panel of 12 experts plus three "tie-breaker" ballots. (See below.)
  1. We rate everybody in one group. The Gold Glove vote is divided into National League and American League. We make ours different by putting everybody together. Besides, is playing shortstop in the American League one thing and playing shortstop in the National League a different thing, or are they really very much the same thing? A few years back we had a great example of this decision. Without the Fielding Bible Award, Jack Wilson wins nada, because he switched leagues in mid-year. According to our panelists (and unlike the Gold Glove voters), Jack was the best fielding shortstop in baseball in 2009. Period. He deserved to be recognized for that.
  1. We use a 10-man ballot and a 10-point scale. We use a 10-man ballot. We give 10 points for first place, 9 points for second place, etc, down to 1 point for tenth place. We feel strongly that a 10-man ballot with weighted positions leads to more accurate outcomes.
  1. We defined the list of candidates. Only players who actually were regulars at the position are candidates. This eliminates the possibility of a vote going to somebody who wasn't really playing the position.
  1. We are publishing the balloting. We summarize the voting at each position, clearly identifying whom everybody voted for. Publishing the actual vote totals encourages the voters to take their votes more seriously. Also, we feel the public will have more respect for the voting if they have more insight into the process.
A perfect score is 120 points. If all 12 voters place one player first on their ballot, he scores 120. Three players had perfect scores of 120 this year: Andrelton Simmons, Kevin Kiermaier, and Jason Heyward.
Here are the tie-breaker rules (which came into play in our very first year, in 2010, and in 2013). They are applied one at a time until we have a winner:
  1. Most first-place votes wins.
  2. Count the tie-breaker ballots, highest point tally wins.
  3. Award goes to player with the more Bases Saved.
Ballots were due four days after the end of the regular season. Here is this year's panel:
 
Bill James, a baseball writer and analyst published for more than thirty years. Bill is the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox.
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.
As the MLB Network on-air host of Clubhouse Confidential and MLB Now, Brian Kenny brings an analytical perspective on the game of baseball to a national television audience. He also won a 2003 Sports Emmy Award as host of ESPN's Baseball Tonight.
Dave Cameron is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs. He resides in Winston- Salem, North Carolina, where the local minor league team once forced him to watch Michael Morse play shortstop for an entire season. He has appreciated defensive value ever since.
 Doug Glanville played nine seasons in Major League Baseball and was well known for his excellent outfield defense. Currently, he is a baseball analyst at ESPN on Baseball Tonight, SportsCenter, Wednesday Night Baseball, and ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to The New York Times, and he is the author of the book The Game from Where I Stand.
The man who created Strat-O-Matic Baseball, Hal Richman, continues to lead his company's annual in-depth analysis of each player's season. Hal cautions SOM players that his voting on this ballot may or may not reflect the eventual fielding ratings for players in his game. Ballots were due prior to the completion of his annual research effort to evaluate player defense.
Named the best sports columnist in America in 2012 by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, Joe Posnanski is the National Columnist at NBC Sports.
For over twenty-five years, BIS owner John Dewan has collected, analyzed, and published in-depth baseball statistics and analysis. He has authored or co-authored four volumes of The Fielding Bible.
Mark Simon has been a researcher for ESPN Stats & Information since 2002 and helps oversee the Stats & Information blog and Twitter (@espnstatsinfo). He is a regular contributor on baseball (often writing on defense) for ESPNNY.com and ESPN.com, and is the author ofNumbers Don't Lie: The Biggest Numbers in Yankees History (published by Triumph Books in June 2016).
Peter Gammons serves as on-air and online analyst for MLB Network, MLB.com and NESN (New England Sports Network). He is the 56th recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing given by the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America).
Rob Neyer has been a working writer for 25 years, and FOXSports.com's Senior Baseball Editor for some of those years. When he's not writing, he's thinking about not writing. Rob will live in Portland, Oregon for as long as they let him.
The Tom Tango Fan Poll represents the results of a poll taken at the website, Tango on Baseball (www.tangotiger.net). Besides hosting the website, Tom writes research articles devoted to sabermetrics and is the co-author of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball.
Our three tie-breakers are Ben Jedlovec, President of Baseball Info Solutions and co-author of The Fielding Bible—Volume III and The Fielding Bible—Volume IV, Dan Casey, veteran Video Scout and Senior Operations Analyst at BIS, and Sean Forman, the founder of Baseball-Reference.com.


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