One Fielding Bible voter’s flawed ballot
As you probably saw somewhere, Baseball Info Solutions announced the winners of the annual Fielding Bible Awards. If you haven’t seen, I’ll save you the trouble of clicking:
P – Dallas Keuchel (1)
C – Jonathan Lucroy (1)
1B – Adrian Gonzalez (1)
2B – Dustin Pedroia (3)
SS – Andrelton Simmons (1)
3B – Josh Donaldson (1)
LF – Alex Gordon (1)
CF – Juan Lagares (1)
RF – Jason Heyward (1)
MP – Lorenzo Cain (9)
Those numbers in parentheses? I’m a Fielding Bible voter, and those numbers show where each winner was on my ballot.
As you can see, I was nearly dead-square with the consensus. I think I gigged Pedroia just slightly for starting only 133 games at second base, but he’s obviously an outstanding second baseman, still near the top of his powers. As you can also see, I wasn’t nearly as sanguine as most of my fellow voters about Lorenzo Cain in the first-ever “Multi-Position” category. In the absence of voting instructions to the contrary, I favored not the “multi-position” players who saved the most runs, but rather those who saved runs and were exceptionally versatile. And playing two outfield positions doesn’t seem exceptionally versatile, which is why my top three here were Ben Zobrist (who finished a close second to Cain), Brock Holt, and Josh Harrison. All of whom saw significant time in the outfield and the infield.
Digging into the balloting, though, I found a real problem with my ballot: I didn’t find any room at all for Yadier Molina, who finished third overall.
If I still had all my notes, I might be able to reconstruct, however loosely, my rationale for not ranking Molina among MLB’s 10 best-fielding catchers. But I don’t have my notes. What I think is that Molina’s numbers, including his pitch-framing metrics, just didn’t look real good, in large part because he started only 106 games behind the plate. FanGraphs has him eighth in the majors, fielding-wise … and FanGraphs doesn’t consider pitch-framing.
My first, second, third, fifth, sixth, eighth, and 10th choices at catcher also made the top 10 in overall balloting. My “missing” choices? I had Yadier’s big brother fourth (!), Miguel Montero seventh, and Tyler Flowers ninth. I don’t remember exactly why, but I think those were, at least to some degree, pitch-framing choices. About which there remains plenty of reasonable skepticism.
And I’m skeptical about my own ballot. I do feel foolish about leaving Jose’s little brother off my ballot entirely. My only solace comes from the knowledge that it didn’t make any difference. Molina finished third, well behind both Lucroy and runner-up Russell Martin (I had them Nos. 1 and 2, as well). If I’d also ranked Molina third, he still would have finished third, two points behind Martin.
I got it wrong, though. And I wish I knew exactly how. So I don’t do it again.