We’re nearing the end of the year, so this seems like an appropriate time to bestow some statistically-driven baseball awards for 2018. These will round out the awards already given by the BBWAA. Without further ado…
The Hard-Hitter Award
Baseball Info Solutions charting is such that every batted ball is deemed hard, medium or soft-hit, based on the balls’ location and velocity. The winner of the Hard-Hitter Award is the player who had the highest percentage of batted balls that were hard- hit.
That honor goes to Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals (49 percent). The next five players behind Carpenter were Braves catcher Tyler Flowers (48.9 percent), Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta (48.6), Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez (48.6), Cardinals and Rays outfielder Tommy Pham (48.5), and Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo (48.5).
Carpenter succeeded with an approach of trying to drive the ball over the shift that vexed him in the first quarter of the season. After batting .140 in his first 39 games, he hit .287/.397/.587 with 33 home runs in his last 121.
The Flat Bat Award
The Flat Bat Award is given annually to the best bunter of the year. To determine the winner, we look at run value — run expectancy gained or lost — for both successful and unsuccessful sacrifice and bunt-for-hit attempts for each player. This year’s winner is Delino DeShields of the Rangers, who also won the award in 2017. In addition to having 12 successful sacrifices (and only two failed attempts), DeShields had 12 bunt hits, easily the most in the majors in 2018 (six players ranked tied for second with eight).
Amazingly, Carpenter, who won the Hard-Hitter Award, finished second for the Flat Bat. He had eight bunt hits and no failed bunt hit attempts. He could both hit for power and drop a bunt down effectively in order to beat shifts.
If you would like to read about the methodology behind the Flat Bat Award, click here.
The Vacuum Cleaner Award
BIS Video Scouts also track what are known as “Good Fielding Plays,” which are often those that lead to the unlikely recording of an out. Those can be broken up into different subtypes, including “Ground Ball Outs.”
Let’s call the leader in Good Fielding Plays on Ground Ball Outs the winner of our Vacuum Cleaner Award. For 2018, there are co-winners,Nolan Arenado of the Rockies and Matt Chapman of the Athletics, each of whom easily paced the field with 28.
The two are an appropriate choice, given their penchant for amazing defensive work at third base. They’ve combined to win the last four Fielding Bible Awards. Coincidentally, the two share another common bond. They each went to El Toro High in Lake Forest, Calif.
The Fly Swatter Award
This is a similar award to The Vacuum Cleaner, except it’s for Good Fielding Plays on “Fly Ball Outs.” The player with the most in 2018 was Royals left fielder Alex Gordon with 25 (23 fair fly balls and two foul fly balls). Albert Almora of the Cubs was second with 23.
Gordon is best known for his arm, but showed standout range as well, as evidenced by the many impressive catches he made. He also won his fourth Fielding Bible Award, the most given to a left fielder since the award was first bestowed in 2006.