First Base – Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Albert Pujols reclaims his award after a one-year hiatus (Daric Barton). The Throw in the NLDS was no fluke. Since Baseball Info Solutions started tracking Good Fielding Plays (GFP) in 2004, Albert Pujols has 37 GFPs on throws. The next best first basemen are Todd Helton with 16, and three others with 15, Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder and Lyle Overbay.
Second Base – Dustin Pedroia, Boston
Dustin Pedroia wins his first Fielding Bible Award with 97 of a possible 100 points. He took seven first place votes and was voted second by the other three panelists. Pedroia has done well in voting in each of the last four years. He lost in a tie-breaker to Aaron Hill in 2009 (each had 76 points), placed fourth in 2008 and seventh in 2010.
Third Base – Adrian Beltre, Texas
Adrian Beltre received eight first place votes beating last year’s winner, Evan Longoria, 98 to 90. It doesn’t matter where he plays. Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston and now Texas. Beltre excels year after year. He has saved an estimated 156 runs defensively for his teams since 2003, an average of 17 runs prevented per year. That was his exact total for the Rangers in 2011, which translates into about two extra wins per year for his clubs, just on defense.
Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
Troy Tulowitzki goes back-to-back, two Fielding Bible Awards in two years, and his third award of his five-year MLB career. Tulo is especially adept at making plays to his right. The Plus/Minus System credits him with 45 more plays in the shortstop hole compared to an average MLB shortstop over his five seasons. Tulowitzki also excels in another area. He had 67 Good Fielding Plays in 2011 compared to only 29 Defensive Misplays or Errors. That +38 figure was tops in baseball. (Alcides Escobar was second at shortstop with +30.) Dustin Pedroia was tops among second basemen in 2011 with +44, so he and Tulowitzki make a truly spectacular double play combination as Fielding Bible Award winners.
Left Field – Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
Brett Gardner is the new Carl Crawford. Gardner repeats as the Fielding Bible Award winner in left field after Crawford won three of the four previous years. It was nearly unanimous as Gardner took nine first-place votes and one second. Gardner’s 22 Defensive Runs Saved tied him with center field winner Austin Jackson for the most runs saved by an outfielder in 2011. That’s an extraordinary total for a left fielder. Normally the best center fielders save significantly more runs defensively than the best left fielders. For Gardner, having a center fielder’s range gives him a tremendous advantage, but he has an excellent throwing arm as well. He has saved the Yankees 13 runs (out of his 35 total) with his arm over the last two years.
Center Field – Austin Jackson, Detroit
He topped all center fielders with 21 Runs Saved in 2010, but Austin Jackson had to do it even better (with 22 Runs Saved) in 2011 to earn his first Fielding Bible Award. Jackson has made 63 more plays than an average center fielder over the last two years. That’s an incredible total. It’s on the plays over his head that AJ really excels (43 of the 63). Making 43 more catches than an average center fielder on balls hit deep is where those lofty Runs Saved totals come in, as he is saving doubles and triples when he makes these catches.
Right Field – Justin Upton, Arizona
Justin Upton wins his first Fielding Bible Award in 2011, unseating three-time winner Ichiro Suzuki. With Ichiro’s down year defensively (he finished tenth in the voting), panelists were divided in their balloting with seven different right fielders receiving first place votes. Upton received three first-place votes, Jason Heyward two, with one apiece for Mike Stanton, Torii Hunter, Andre Ethier, Jay Bruce and Nate Schierholtz. Like Austin Jackson in center field, Upton excels on deeply hit balls, where he fielded 18 more balls in 2011 than the average right fielder would have, based on the depth, angle and velocity of those hit to him.
Catcher – Matt Wieters, Baltimore
After Yadier Molina won the previous four Fielding Bible Awards, Matt Wieters wins his first. And it wasn’t even close in the voting, Wieters 97 to Molina 74. When you look at the numbers, it wasn’t close there either. Prior to 2011, Molina has thrown out 42% of baserunners. On top of that, he has picked off an average of six baserunners per year. In 2011, Yadier dropped to 25% caught stealing and only picked two runners off. Wieters threw out 36% of basestealers in 2011. But it was the pitcher handling department where Wieters really excelled. Nine of his 14 runs saved are estimated for his pitcher handling, while Molina also had a down year in this area, costing the Cardinals six runs.
Pitcher – Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox
It’s a third consecutive Fielding Bible Award for Mark Buehrle. It is remarkable how Buehrle puts up excellent Defensive Runs Saved numbers year after year. He saved an estimated nine runs defensively for the White Sox in 2011, tops among all pitchers in baseball. He had eight saved runs in 2010, 11 in 2009, and has averaged about eight per year going back to 2004. His control of the running game is uncanny. Only three baserunners were successful stealing bases in 2011 with Buehrle on the mound, while nine of them were caught stealing or picked off by Buehrle. He covers his position as well, with 15 of his Runs Saved guarding the territory around the mound over the last three years.