People love debating the MVP races every year. We’re seeing it now, particularly with some who wish to consider the merits of a one-of-a-kind player in Shohei Ohtani versus a player having a one-of-a-kind season in Aaron Judge.
But what about the race for MVD – Most Valuable Defender?
You can think of this as an early preview for the Platinum Glove Award announcement in November. We’ll do the American League this week and the National League early next week.
Michael A. Taylor looks like he’s going to lead all center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved for the second straight season. Since Runs Saved became a stat in 2003, only two center fielders have done that: Torii Hunter for the Twins in 2003 and 2004 and Kevin Kiermaier in 2015 and 2016. He’s thrived for the Royals the last two seasons both because he excels at catching the deep fly ball and because his arm prevents baserunners from advancing at a high rate.
To hit .173 but still make more than 100 starts in the field means you must be doing something pretty well. Rays infielder Taylor Walls is overcoming his poor offensive numbers with his defensive play. He has 10 Runs Saved at shortstop, 5 at third base and 3 at second base. The combination of versatility and quality that he provides is hard to match and has helped the Rays contend for a playoff spot even during Wander Franco’s long absence.
Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña has a good case for being most deserving, particularly if we add in consideration for being a rookie replacing Fielding Bible Award winner Carlos Correa.
Peña co-leads all shortstops in Runs Saved and has been at or near the top of that leaderboard all season. He can become the first first-year player to lead shortstops in Runs Saved. Peña has filled Correa’s shoes in the field more than capably, particularly in how he takes away hits going to his left.
Baseball-Reference calculates a Defensive Wins Above Replacement based on the player’s Runs Saved total with an adjustment for positional difficulty (shortstop being the most difficult position). They have Walls (2.6 dWAR), Peña (2.5), and Taylor (2.4) as the top three and it’s a very tight race for the lead spot (for those curious, Peña has a slim lead in Defensive Win Shares). You can find the full dWAR leaderboard here.
Lastly, though they don’t necessarily rank at the very top of the dWAR leaders, three catchers deserve consideration: Jose Trevino of the Yankees, Adley Rutschman of the Orioles, and Cal Raleigh of the Mariners.
Trevino leads catchers in Runs Saved because his pitch-framing numbers are the best in MLB. Rutschman is an excellent framer and an excellent pitch blocker and is just behind Trevino in Runs Saved. Raleigh stands out for framing and cutting off potential basestealers. He’s also caught more innings than both Trevino and Rutschman.
One of the cool things about this set of players is that – other than Taylor – it’s not a group you would have predicted to be here had you made any preseason guesses. Past Fielding Bible Award winners Correa, Byron Buxton, Matt Chapman, and Kevin Kiermaier seemed like much more likely options.
So who’s your pick?
We put a four-player ballot on Twitter with Taylor, Peña, Walls, and Rutschman (we lopped off Trevino and Raleigh because Twitter gives us only four slots). Cast your vote here, share your take, and let us know who should be the AL MVD.
Most Defensive Runs Saved
|Defensive Runs Saved
|Michael A. Taylor
Most Defensive WAR
|Michael A. Taylor