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The Fielding Bible Awards 2021

Mark Simon

The theme of the 2021 Fielding Bible Awards is that defensive excellence came in pairs.

Three sets of teammates—Michael A. Taylor and Whit Merrifield of the Royals, Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill of the Cardinals, and Jacob Stallings and Ke’Bryan Hayes from the Pirates—won this year. Coincidentally, all three pairs came from either the AL or NL Central. The Central divisions had seven of the 10 award winners with Dallas Keuchel of the White Sox being the other.

Keuchel, Goldschmidt, and O’Neill were three of the four multi-time winners in 2021, along with Kiké Hernández of the Red Sox.

Keuchel won his fifth award at pitcher, passing Mark Buehrle for the most at the position. Goldschmidt won his fourth at first base, one shy of Albert Pujols for most. O’Neill and Hernández won their second straight at left field and multi-position, respectively.

First time winners were Stallings at catcher, Merrifield at second base, Carlos Correa of the Astros at shortstop, Hayes at third base, Taylor in center field, and Aaron Judge of the Yankees in right field.

Congratulations to the winners!

The Fielding Bible Awards are determined by a 17-person expert voting panel (up from 12 in previous years). The panel awards 10 winners each year, one at each position plus an additional award that goes to the best defensive multi-position player.

The criteria for the multi-position award changed this year to prioritize players who had a high degree of positional versatility and value; players who usually play many positions over the course of the season, might move from position to position within a game, and have demonstrated the ability to handle high leverage positions when the team needs them to.

Our panel voted on 10 players at each position on a scale from 1 to 10. A first-place vote got 10 points, second place nine points, third place eight points etc. We total up the points for each player and the player with the most points wins the award at that position. A perfect score is 170 points.

Here are the Fielding Bible Awards for 2021.

First Base – Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals played great defense down the stretch to make the postseason. Goldschmidt was the anchor of the infield, as he won his fourth Fielding Bible Award. Only Albert Pujols (5) has more.

Goldschmidt finished tied for the MLB lead in Defensive Runs Saved at the position. The Cardinals infield led MLB at turning ground balls and bunts into outs, both because Goldschmidt could make plays and because he helped his teammates make plays by catching their throws.

Previous Winners:
2020 Matt Olson 2015 Paul Goldschmidt 2010 Daric Barton
2019 Matt Olson 2014 Adrián González 2009 Albert Pujols
2018 Matt Olson 2013 Paul Goldschmidt 2008 Albert Pujols
2017 Paul Goldschmidt 2012 Mark Teixeira 2007 Albert Pujols
2016 Anthony Rizzo 2011 Albert Pujols 2006 Albert Pujols

Second Base – Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals

Merrifield won a close vote, edging out Marcus Semien of the Blue Jays to win his first Fielding Bible Award. He ended a three-year run at second base by Kolten Wong.

After playing a considerable amount of center field in 2019 and 2020, Merrifield was basically the Royals’ everyday second baseman in 2021 (save for a few cameos in the outfield). Everyday is the optimal word for Merrifield, who has played in every game the Royals have played the last three seasons.

Merrifield’s MLB-leading 14 Runs Saved were 11 more than his previous high at second base. He led all second basemen in Good Fielding Plays and in double plays turned.

Previous Winners:
2020 Kolten Wong 2015 Ian Kinsler 2010 Chase Utley
2019 Kolten Wong 2014 Dustin Pedroia 2009 Aaron Hill
2018 Kolten Wong 2013 Dustin Pedroia 2008 Brandon Phillips
2017 DJ LeMahieu 2012 Darwin Barney 2007 Aaron Hill
2016 Dustin Pedroia 2011 Dustin Pedroia 2006 Orlando Hudson

Third Base – Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

You have to be some kind of third baseman to end the reigns of Matt Chapman and Nolan Arenado as Fielding Bible Award winners, and Hayes fit that description. He won his first Fielding Bible Award at third base, the first not won there by those two other guys since Josh Donaldson won in 2014.

Hayes ranked first in Defensive Runs Saved at third base while ranking 17th in innings played. He finished with a three-run lead in DRS, which probably would have been more had he not been injured earlier in the season.

But when he was on the field, he wowed. And now he’s the new standard setter.

Previous Winners:
2020 Nolan Arenado 2015 Nolan Arenado 2010 Evan Longoria
2019 Matt Chapman 2014 Josh Donaldson 2009 Ryan Zimmerman
2018 Matt Chapman 2013 Manny Machado 2008 Adrian Beltre
2017 Nolan Arenado 2012 Adrian Beltre 2007 Pedro Feliz
2016 Nolan Arenado 2011 Adrian Beltre 2006 Adrian Beltre

Shortstop – Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

Correa won his first Fielding Bible Award, with a breakthrough season in which his 20 Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop were five more than the next-closest player.

Correa ranked third in Good Fielding Plays per 1,000 innings and had the fourth-fewest Defensive Misplays & Errors per 1,000 innings. Over the last three seasons, he has the second-highest rate of Good Plays and the second-lowest rate of Misplays & Errors.

Correa is the second Astros player to win this award at shortstop, joining Adam Everett, who won in 2006, our first year of voting.

Previous Winners:
2020 Javier Báez 2015 Andrelton Simmons 2010 Troy Tulowitzki
2019 Nick Ahmed 2014 Andrelton Simmons 2009 Jack Wilson
2018 Andrelton Simmons 2013 Andrelton Simmons 2008 Jimmy Rollins
2017 Andrelton Simmons 2012 Brendan Ryan 2007 Troy Tulowitzki
2016 Andrelton Simmons 2011 Troy Tulowitzki 2006 Adam Everett

Left Field – Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals

O’Neill became the first repeat winner in left field since Starling Marte in 2015 and 2016. O’Neill received the highest vote total of any player, with 14 of a possible 17 first place votes.

O’Neill was the only left fielder to reach double figures in Defensive Runs Saved and had the best combination of range (tied for first) and arm (tied for second in Outfield Arm Runs Saved).

O’Neill’s arm numbers improved considerably. He had seven assists without the aid of a cutoff man in 2021 (tied with Raimel Tapia for the most at the position) after having none in left field in 2020.

Previous Winners:
2020 Tyler O'Neill 2015 Starling Marte 2010 Brett Gardner
2019 David Peralta 2014 Alex Gordon 2009 Carl Crawford
2018 Alex Gordon 2013 Alex Gordon 2008 Carl Crawford
2017 Brett Gardner 2012 Alex Gordon 2007 Eric Byrnes
2016 Starling Marte 2011 Brett Gardner 2006 Carl Crawford

Center Field – Michael A. Taylor, Kansas City Royals

In his Royals debut on Opening Day against the Rangers, Taylor went 3-for-5 with a home run and two outfield assists. That game didn’t set a tone for his season as a hitter, but it did set one for his season as a fielder.

Taylor led all center fielders with 19 Defensive Runs Saved and he edged out Harrison Bader by one point to win his first Fielding Bible Award.

Taylor was rewarded for having the second-best Range Runs Saved as a center fielder and the second-best Outfield Arm Runs Saved. His eight assists without the help of a cutoff man were the most at the position.

Previous Winners:
2020 Kevin Kiermaier 2015 Kevin Kiermaier 2010 Michael Bourn
2019 Lorenzo Cain 2014 Juan Lagares 2009 Franklin Gutierrez
2018 Lorenzo Cain 2013 Carlos Gomez 2008 Carlos Beltran
2017 Byron Buxton 2012 Mike Trout 2007 Andruw Jones
2016 Kevin Pillar 2011 Austin Jackson 2006 Carlos Beltran

Right Field – Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

Judge is best known for his bat, but he’s an excellent defender too. He won his first Fielding Bible Award in an interesting way, as he edged out his teammate, Joey Gallo in a tight vote (Gallo did his work in right field for the Rangers).

Judge’s defensive strength in 2021 was the deterrent value of his arm. His 5 Outfield Arm Runs Saved tied for second most by a right fielder.

Judge also tied for the MLB lead with two home run–robbing catches and had a third robbery where he didn’t catch the ball but got his glove on it to turn a would-be home run into a triple. Our record-keeping is sophisticated enough to reward Judge for that play. Little things like that helped him win the award.

Previous Winners:
2020 Mookie Betts 2015 Jason Heyward 2010 Ichiro Suzuki
2019 Cody Bellinger 2014 Jason Heyward 2009 Ichiro Suzuki
2018 Mookie Betts 2013 Gerardo Parra 2008 Franklin Gutierrez
2017 Mookie Betts 2012 Jason Heyward 2007 Alex Rios
2016 Mookie Betts 2011 Justin Upton 2006 Ichiro Suzuki

Catcher – Jacob Stallings, Pittsburgh Pirates

Stallings ended the two-year run of Roberto Pérez of the Indians with a dominant defensive season and his first Fielding Bible Award.

Stallings’ 21 Defensive Runs Saved were nine better than second place Austin Hedges. Stallings’ nine-run margin was the biggest for any positional winner.

Stallings’ strength in pitch blocking AND pitch framing were what carried him to that advantage. He led all regular catchers with a 95.5% block rate and ranked second in pitch blocks overall. He also ranked tied for fourth in our pitch-framing metric, Strike Zone Runs Saved.

Previous Winners:
2020 Roberto Pérez 2015 Buster Posey 2010 Yadier Molina
2019 Roberto Pérez 2014 Jonathan Lucroy 2009 Yadier Molina
2018 Jeff Mathis 2013 Yadier Molina 2008 Yadier Molina
2017 Martin Maldonado 2012 Yadier Molina 2007 Yadier Molina
2016 Buster Posey 2011 Matt Wieters 2006 Ivan Rodriguez

Pitcher – Dallas Keuchel, Chicago White Sox

Keuchel won his fifth Fielding Bible Award and passed Mark Buehrle for the most won by a pitcher since SIS first gave out the award in 2006.

Keuchel did this with a career-high 12 Defensive Runs Saved, the most by a pitcher since Buehrle had 12 in 2012, and three shy of Kenny Rogers’ record 15 in 2008.

Keuchel’s 41 assists were the most by a pitcher in 2021. He also led MLB in Range Factor per 9 Innings. And as has been standard for him, he limited the running game, allowing only two stolen bases in six attempts.

Previous Winners:
2020 Max Fried 2015 Dallas Keuchel 2010 Mark Buehrle
2019 Zack Greinke 2014 Dallas Keuchel 2009 Mark Buehrle
2018 Zack Greinke 2013 R.A. Dickey 2008 Kenny Rogers
2017 Dallas Keuchel 2012 Mark Buehrle 2007 Johan Santana
2016 Dallas Keuchel 2011 Mark Buehrle 2006 Greg Maddux

Multi-Position – Kiké Hernández, Boston Red Sox

Hernández won the multi-position award for the second straight year. What’s impressive is that in 2020, Hernández was a second baseman who sometimes played the outfield or other spots. In 2021, he was a center fielder who sometimes played second base.

Hernández has shown that he can handle either of those two primary spots very well. In 2020 he tied for the MLB lead in Runs Saved at second base. In 2021, he finished third in that stat among center fielders, no easy feat given the complexities of playing the outfield at Fenway Park.

Previous Winners:
2020 Kiké Hernández 2017 Javier Baez 2014 Lorenzo Cain
2019 Cody Bellinger 2016 Javier Baez
2018 Javier Baez 2015 Ender Inciarte