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The 2021 Fielding Bible Award Winners

SIS is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Fielding Bible Awards. This marks the 16th season that we have honored the best defensive players in MLB. The awards are voted on by a panel of experts who consider statistical analysis, the eye test, and any other factors that they wish to consider.

This year’s winners are:

Position Name Team
1B Paul Goldschmidt Cardinals
2B Whit Merrifield Royals
SS Carlos Correa Astros
3B Ke’Bryan Hayes Pirates
LF Tyler O’Neill Cardinals
CF Michael A. Taylor Royals
RF Aaron Judge Yankees
C Jacob Stallings Pirates
P Dallas Keuchel White Sox
Multi-Position Kiké Hernández Red Sox

 

Paul 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.

Whit 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.

Carlos 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.

Ke’Bryan Hayes dethroned Matt Chapman and Nolan Arenado as Fielding Bible Award winners to win for the first time. It was 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.

Tyler 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 Runs Saved (tied for first) and Outfield Arm Runs Saved (tied for second).

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.

Michael A. Taylor went 3-for-5 with a home run and two outfield assists in his Royals debut on Opening Day against the Rangers. 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 in the voting 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.

Aaron 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.

Jacob 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’ strengths 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.

Dallas 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.

Kiké 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.

The awards are determined by a panel of 17 baseball experts, who ranked the top 10 players at each defensive position (including the multi-position players left out of Gold Glove voting) on a scale from one to 10. A first-place vote gets 10 points, second place gets nine points, third place gets eight points, etc. Total up the points for each player, and the player with the most points wins the award. A perfect score is 170 points.

Our voting panel consisted of SIS chairman John Dewan and baseball stat pioneer Bill James, along with Emma Baccellieri (Sports Illustrated), Dan Casey (SIS), Chris Dial (sabermetrician), Peter Gammons (MLB Network/The Athletic), Christina Kahrl (San Francisco Chronicle), Zach Kram (The Ringer), Moses Massena (MLB Network), Eduardo Perez (ESPN), Hal Richman (Strat-O-Matic), Meg Rowley (FanGraphs), Travis Sawchik (The Score), Joe Sheehan (longtime writer), Mark Simon (SIS), Chris Singleton (ESPN), and the SIS Video Scout staff.

“This year’s Fielding Bible Award winners are an impressive and well-deserving group,” said SIS chairman, John Dewan. “We expanded our voting panel to include a broader cross-section of people covering baseball and I’m confident that their vote has produced a standout collection of honorees.”

A complete list of ballots and the history of the Fielding Bible Awards (which began in 2006) can be found online at FieldingBible.com and in The 2022 Bill James Handbook, which is available at ACTASports.com.