First Base – Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
Mark Teixeira finally wins his first Fielding Bible Award at first base. Always
well known for his defense, Teixeira broke through for another one of his huge defensive
years in 2012 as he has done before from time to time. In 2003 and 2005, before
the Fielding Bible Award began, he had seasons of 19 runs saved and 13 runs saved
respectively. In 2008 he had his best season with 21 Defensive Runs Saved, but lost
the Fielding Bible Award in a close vote to Albert Pujols. In 2012 he notched 17
runs and earned his first Fielding Bible Award. But it’s not that his defense has
been poor in his other seasons. In the last decade Mark has never cost his team
runs in any single year. But in his four best seasons he has saved 70 runs, while
only saving a total of 24 runs in the other six.
Second Base – Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs Darwin Barney’s defense is a shining star in an otherwise cloudy season for
the 2012 Chicago Cubs. After a nondescript debut at second base in 2011, when he
saved only one run defensively, Barney led all second basemen in 2012 with 28 runs
saved. This total led by a wide margin. He had a lot more runs saved than defending
Fielding Bible Award winner Dustin Pedroia’s total of 11, a lot more than Robinson
Cano’s 15, and a lot more than Brandon Phillips’ 11. Those three came in second,
third and fourth in a vote that wasn’t close; Barney received eight of ten first-place
votes. Barney’s vote tabulation of 96 points was only four short of perfection.
Third Base – Adrian Beltre, Texas Adrian Beltre has been the best defensive third baseman of our generation,
and he now has his fourth Fielding Bible Award to prove it. But he has had competition.
When Beltre won his first award in 2006, he barely beat out Scott Rolen and Joe
Crede for the award. He won the award pretty easily in 2008 over Evan Longoria,
but Longoria gave him a much tougher battle in 2011 when Beltre beat him by a 98-90
score in the voting. This year it was Mike Moustakas on Beltre’s heels. Third base
was 2012’s slimmest margin of victory, with Beltre winning 90 to 86 in the tabulation.
Brett Lawrie was a close third with 83 points. Both Lawrie and Moustakas had a few
more runs saved than Beltre this year (20 and 14, respectively, compared to 13 Defensive
Runs Saved for Beltre), but it is Beltre’s long time excellence year after year
that allowed him to retain the award this year. He has saved the most runs at third
base in baseball over the last three years with 45. But if Lawrie or Moustakas repeat
next year what they did this year, one of them will no doubt unseat Beltre.
Shortstop – Brendan Ryan, Seattle Brendan Ryan is the best defender in baseball. Period. Make that double period.
His has saved 67 runs for his teams defensively over the last three years, the highest
total among all players. The next highest runs saved total is not even close (Michael
Bourn, 51). Ryan led all shortstops in 2012 with 27 runs saved, led in 2011 with
18, and finished second in both 2010 and 2009 with 22 runs saved each year. Seattle
recognizes the value of Ryan’s defense, and that’s why they keep putting him out
there day after day despite his .194 batting average during the 2012 season. It
will be interesting to see if the American League coaches and managers, who vote
for the Gold Glove Awards, can look past Ryan’s offense and base their ballot on
his defense alone. This has been one of the problems with the Gold Glove voting—a
certain amount of offense has always been required for what should be a defense-only
award. Gold Glove voting has never allowed for a position player hitting below the
Mendoza line to win a Gold Glove. Hopefully Ryan will be the first.
Left Field – Alex Gordon, Kansas City In the history of the Fielding Bible Awards, Carl Crawford and Brett Gardner
have won every award given out to left fielders except one. But this year both Crawford
and Gardner were injured, opening the door for Alex Gordon. Gordon didn’t stroll
through that door—he tore it off its hinges and burst through the other side. He
lapped the field with his 24 runs saved defensively, his nearest competitors being
Martin Prado of Atlanta with 12 and Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings with 9 runs saved.
Gordon was a unanimous choice for the 2012 Fielding Bible Award, finishing first
on every single ballot cast by the panelists.
Center Field – Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels Can Mike Trout win every single award in his rookie season? In 1975 another
rookie center fielder, Fred Lynn, won the MVP award, the Rookie of the Year award,
and a Gold Glove. It was the first and last time this has ever been done. (Technically,
Ichiro also won the same three awards in 2001, but he wasn’t really a rookie at
age 27 having played many years of professional baseball in Japan, was he?) Mike
Trout can now top that. Trout wins his first award in a possible Grand Slam of Awards
with a Fielding Bible Award for his play defensively. He has incredible range, especially
on balls hit deep, where he saved many a run, converting possible doubles and triples
into outs. He made 23 more plays on balls hit deep than an average center fielder
would have made on the identical type of batted balls. The other thing that set
him apart was his four home-run saving catches in 2012. Cameron Maybin was second
with three, and no one else had more than two.
Right Field – Jason Heyward, Atlanta After finishing second to Justin Upton in 2011, Jason Heyward wins his first
Fielding Bible Award in 2012. Heyward demonstrated that his superlative performance
in 2011 was no fluke. And neither was 2010. In 2011 he led all right fielders with
15 runs saved defensively. He saved 15 runs in 2010 as well. He topped both those
years in 2012 with 20 runs saved, just two behind Josh Reddick’s total of 22. How
does he do it? He covers a ton of ground in right field, whether the ball is hit
shallow, medium, or deep. In each of the last three years he has made between 30
and 40 more plays than an average right fielder would have made. All those extra
plays more than make up for what is a slightly below average throwing arm for a
Catcher – Yadier Molina, St. Louis Yadier is back. After a one-year hiatus when he came in second to Matt Wieters,
Molina wins his fifth Fielding Bible Award, tying him with Albert Pujols for the
most awards won in the seven-year history of The Fielding Bible Awards. In 2011
Molina dropped to his all-time low only throwing out 25% of baserunners attempting
to steal. In 2012 he threw out 46%, an MLB leading percentage in line with the rest
of his career. On top of that he was superlative handling bunts, saving four runs
in the process and giving him 16 Defensive Runs Saved on the season, the most among
catchers in baseball last year
Pitcher – Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins Mark Buehrle wins his fourth consecutive Fielding Bible Award. His 12 Defensive
Runs Saved was the highest total among pitchers. As a player who only plays once
every five games compared to those in other positions, it is Buehrle’s consistency
defensively that really stands out. In the last nine years, he has ranked no worse
than number 11 in Defensive Runs Saved among the 175 pitchers we rank each year.
In seven of those nine years he was no worse than fifth. In that time span, only
42 runners have stolen a base on him, while 48 have been thrown out and another
31 have been picked off by Buehrle. That comes out to 32 runs saved for Buehrle
preventing stolen bases when we do our calculations. On top of that, he has saved
another 36 runs with the way he has fielded his position in those nine years. Buehrle
joins Alex Gordon and Yadier Molina as the third player in 2012 to receive a perfect
total of 100 points in the balloting. The Fielding Bible Awards have never had more
than one unanimous selection in any other year.