Watching last night’s All-Star Game had us wondering:
If we were going to make an All-Star team based entirely on defense, who would we pick?
We’re not going to tie this to how an All-Star team is typically chosen. Our roster will consist of 20 position players and 4 pitchers. Our starting lineup will consist of the Defensive Runs Saved leader at each position, with the tiebreaker (which we applied once) being most innings played.
We’ll primarily use Runs Saved at a position to pick the reserves too but without any requirements for number of players at a position other than pitcher.
Here’s our starting lineup:
|RF||Fernando Tatis Jr.||15|
Pirates first baseman Carlos Santana’s 8 Runs Saved match the most he’s had in an entire season (he had 8 in 2017). He’d totaled 9 Runs Saved in the previous four years combined.
Padres second baseman Ha-Seong Kim is both the leader in Runs Saved at that position and overall with 17 Runs Saved when totaling all positions. He’s also saved 4 runs at shortstop and 2 at third base.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco’s 12 Runs Saved are double his total from 2021 and 2022. He rates among the top shortstops in MLB both at making plays on balls hit to his left and to his right.
Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon has run away with the positional lead at third base over the last few weeks. His 39 Runs Saved in the last 3 seasons at third base trail only Ke’Bryan Hayes’ 51. He’s well ahead of both Matt Chapman (22) and Nolan Arenado (21).
None of the four leaders among these infielders has won a Fielding Bible Award. But two of the outfield leaders have.
Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan got off to a slow start but is now in position to contend for a 2nd straight Fielding Bible Award. He won the award voting last season after finishing with an MLB-best 21 Runs Saved there.
Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier has looked a lot like his old self for much of the season. He’s won 2 Fielding Bible Awards. No one has won 3 in center field in the 17-year history of the honor.
Padres right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. has taken to his new position in a big way. He leads all players at the position in the range component of Runs Saved and is just behind Adolis Garcia for the lead in the Outfield Arm component.
Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk is tied for the lead in Runs Saved with Patrick Bailey, but we’re rewarding Kirk for playing more at a position that is physically challenging. He rates above average in our framing, blocking, and stolen base metrics.
Royals pitcher Zack Greinke may have a 5.44 ERA, but he’s still going strong at age 39. He’s not only the 2023 pitcher leader in Defensive Runs Saved but also the overall pitcher leader since the stat was first tracked in 2003.
And here are the reserves
|CF||Luis Robert Jr.||7|
We won’t run through all the reserve selections here, just a few of the highlights. Third base is a very deep position this year and we couldn’t pick between Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pirates and Matt Chapman of the Blue Jays, so we took both of them.
We also felt that it was necessary to include a pair of outstanding utility players. Rays infielder Taylor Walls has 6 Runs Saved at third base but also has 2 Runs Saved at both second base and shortstop. Blue Jays outfielder Daulton Varsho leads all outfielders in Runs Saved. He’s got the second-most in both center field (9) and left field (7).
Taking two catchers was also justified. We already mentioned Bailey, who has been excellent in his debut season with the Giants, and we’ll also add Nick Fortes of the Marlins, who has been particularly good at blocking pitches. He edges out Jonah Heim of the Rangers who also has 8 Runs Saved.
Catcher was one of several positions at which we had to make some difficult decisions. And we can tell already that the Fielding Bible Awards decision-making isn’t going to be easy either because of how much high-quality defense is being played.