By MARK SIMON
For the next two weeks, this space will feature a two-part series on the top candidates for The Fielding Bible Awards, which will be announced later this month.
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 week, Part I of our preview looks at catchers and infielders.
(Defensive Runs Saved totals in parentheses)
Fielding Bible Favorites: Jacob Stallings (21), Austin Hedges (12)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Stallings; AL Favorite: Hedges
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Elias Diaz (9) (AL) Sean Murphy (10), Max Stassi (10)
Stallings was the runaway leader in Defensive Runs Saved this year and for good reason, given that he rates among the game’s top pitch framers and pitch blockers. The absence of Roberto Pérez left a hole both behind the plate for the Indians and on the Runs Saved leaderboard. Hedges did his best to fill it. In a little more than a half-season, he had the most Runs Saved of any AL catcher, though he’ll be challenged for a Gold Glove by the likes of Murphy and Stassi, the latter of whom led the majors in our pitch-framing stat, Strike Zone Runs Saved.
Fielding Bible Favorites: Paul Goldschmidt (9), Max Muncy (6), Matt Olson (6)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Goldschmidt; AL Favorite: Olson
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Pete Alonso (5) (AL) Ty France (5), Yuli Gurriel (5)
Goldschmidt and the Cardinals picked things up in the latter part of the season on the way to making the playoffs. The 2021 season marked the second time that he’s co-led the position in Runs Saved, the first coming in 2015 when he won his second Fielding Bible Award.
Goldschmidt’s top challenger for a Fielding Bible Award will probably be Olson, who has won the last three of them. That’s the same number that Goldschmidt has won. Both trail Albert Pujols for the most at first base. Pujols has won five since the award was first handed out in 2006.
Fielding Bible Favorites: Whit Merrifield (14), Marcus Semien (11), David Fletcher (11)
NL Gold Glove Favorites: Adam Frazier (7), Tommy Edman (6), Kolten Wong (6) AL Favorite: Merrifield
Other Top Contenders (NL): Jake Cronenworth (5), Jean Segura (5), Jazz Chisholm (5) (AL) Jorge Polanco (3)
Wong has won the last three years here but there are a few players who could supplant him, led by Merrifield, who was basically a full-time second baseman this season after previously moving to center field. Merrifield’s 14 Runs Saved far exceeded his previous high of 3.
Semien is another strong contender. He made the move from shortstop and excelled both with the bat and the glove.
Fielding Bible Favorites: Carlos Correa (20), Andrelton Simmons (15)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Trevor Story (9); AL Favorite: Correa
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Edmundo Sosa (8), Kevin Newman (7), Brandon Crawford (6), Paul DeJong (6) (AL) Isiah Kiner-Falefa (10), J.P Crawford (8).
Simmons has won this award six times. Correa never has. But after finishing fourth in the voting last year, this may be Correa’s best shot. He played in 148 games, his most since 2016 (153) and easily led shortstops in Runs Saved.
The intrigue here may be in the Gold Glove at shortstop in the NL, where there are several formidable contenders. Story had the most Runs Saved among them but Brandon Crawford impressed throughout the year in a season in which he seemed to turn the clock back to past excellence.
Fielding Bible Favorites: Ke’Bryan Hayes (16), Austin Riley (13), Ryan McMahon (13)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Hayes; AL Favorites: Matt Chapman (10), José Ramírez (10)
Other Top Contenders: (NL) Nolan Arenado (6), Manny Machado (6) (AL) Yoan Moncada (3)
The idea that this award wouldn’t go to Arenado (who has won 4 of the last 6) or Chapman (who took the other 2) will seem ridiculous to some people. But for those who watched baseball this year, Hayes and McMahon in particular were outstanding both statistically and via the eye test. That’s why we labeled them as this year’s favorites along with Riley, who might be one of the most improved defensive players in baseball.
Next week’s Stat of the Week will preview outfielders, pitchers, and the multi-position award.