First Base – Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Albert Pujols is the only repeat winner from last year, and it was a landslide. He received the highest vote total of any position (91 out of a possible 100 points) and received 7 of 10 first place votes, plus three dditional first place votes from our three tie-breakers. His excellent defense is beginning to become as well known as his incredible offense.
Second Base – Aaron Hill, Toronto
Aaron Hill edged out last year’s winner, Orlando Hudson, by a margin of 82 to 80 points. Hudson’s injury late in the year (he missed most of September) may have come into play, but it’s Hill who has led the majors in plus/minus at second base in each of the last two years (+22 each year).
Third Base – Pedro Feliz, San Francisco
After last year’s incredible battle between Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen and Joe Crede for the third base award (won by Beltre), a new combatant, Pedro Feliz, emerged and won. Rolen once again locked horns but then lost to the winner (Feliz 89 points, Rolen 83). Feliz is especially good at handling bunts and rates an A+ in this area over the last three years.
Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
A rookie wins the award! You can’t say that too often about the Gold Gloves. But the Fielding Bible Award voters are not afraid to stand up nd say, “This is our man,” even in his first year. On my own personal ballot, I placed annual Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel on top, with Tulowitzki second. But the final decision of the award panel was that Tulowitzki was the best defensive shortstop in the game in 2007. He did get some help; last year’s winner, Adam Everett, was injured about a third of the way into the season but still managed to place second on the strength of his incredible defense in that short time.
Left Field – Eric Byrnes, Arizona
Another close vote as Eric Byrnes gets the nod over the incumbent, Carl Crawford, by three points. Byrnes, heralded in an article in Sports Illustrated as the second coming of Pete Rose based on his constant aggressiveness and hustle, was the Major League leader in left field in plus/minus (+28) as well as one of the leaders in Good Fielding Plays (23), a new defensive category being tracked by Baseball Info Solutions.
Center Field – Andruw Jones, Atlanta
Last year Carlos Beltran won the award with Andruw Jones coming in second. This year Jones returned the favor, tipping the scales at 86 points to 80 for Beltran. Jones and Beltran both have great range, but it was probably Jones’ intimidating throwing arm that swayed the voters. It’s interesting that just a year ago Jones seemed to be slipping slightly from the consensus best center fielder he was a few years before. Perhaps we should also crown him “Comeback Fielder of the Year.”
Right Field – Alex Rios, Toronto
Where’s Ichiro? In center field this year, that’s where. He came in third behind Jones and Beltran. Last year’s runner-up in right field, Alex Rios, takes over Suzuki’s vacated spot. It was a strong battle between three great right fielders, as Rios scored 73 points to 66 each for Austin Kearns and Jeff Francouer.
Catcher – Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Move over, Pudge. Last year, Ivan Rodriguez and Yadier Molina were neck-and-neck in the battle for the Fielding Bible Award at catcher as they were named first or second on nearly every ballot. Molina maintained his incredible performance controlling the running game in 2007 throwing out
50% of would-be base stealers. Rodriguez’ drop from 46% last year to 29% this year convinced our voters to bestow the award on Molina.
Pitcher – Johan Santana, Minnesota
Oh my! The winner of last year’s first Fielding Bible Award (and 16 of the last 17 National League Gold Gloves) has been dethroned. Greg Maddux finished a close second but it was Johan Santana who won his first award for defensive excellence. The voting was exceptionally interesting. Five voters, plus all three tie-breakers, had Maddux in first place on their ballots. But then, one voter placed him tenth while two others (including Bill James) didn’t rank him in their top ten at all. Why is that? The answer lies in how much emphasis each voter puts on a pitcher’s control over the running game. Base stealers have always had their way with Maddux, and 2007 was no exception as 37 of 39 attempts were successful against him. Johan Santana, on the other hand, has always been one of the best in baseball in this area. Base stealers were not only caught more often (45% vs.
5% for Maddux), but Santana held runners on so much better that they attempted to steal far less often (only 11 attempts against Santana versus 39 against Maddux).