Monday, November 2, 2009
And the winners are ...
We don't know the Gold Glove winners yet, but do have the Fielding Bible winners:
P: Mark Buehrle (8)
C: Yadier Molina (9)
1B: Albert Pujols (9)
2B: Aaron Hill (6)
SS: Jack Wilson (6)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman (6)
LF: Carl Crawford (10)
CF: Franklin Gutierrez (9)
RF: Ichiro Suzuki (9)
Those numbers in parentheses represent the number of first- and second-place votes each winner received. As you can probably guess, most of the tallies weren't particularly close. It was fairly close at third, but Ryan Zimmerman (my choice) had six first- or second-place votes while none of the three third basemen who essentially tied for second had more than four.
Which leaves only second base and shortstop, and both were extremely close; in fact, there was a tie at second base:
It’s the second Fielding Bible Award for Hill (he won the 2007 award), and it didn’t come easily. The regular voting by the panel ended in a tie between Hill and Dustin Pedroia at 76 points with Chase Utley just three behind. For the second time in the history of the award, we went to the tie-breaker. The first tie-breaker rule is based on the player with the most first-place votes. Hill wins because he had four first-place votes from our ten panelists to only one for Pedroia.
I was one of the 10 panelists, and I'm as much to blame for the tie as anyone. I listed Pedroia first, Utley second ... and Hill eighth (two other panelists, Peter Gammons and "Tango Fan Poll," had him seventh).
Why eighth? I look at (among other things) whichever statistics I've got close at hand. The Fielding Bible panelists are provided with Baseball Info Solutions' fielding data, but we're encouraged to draw upon any resources we choose. According the Fielding Bible data, Hill saved 15 runs in 2009, third best in the majors. And he led the majors in Runs Saved in both 2006 and 2007, which of course suggests that 2009 wasn't a fluke. On the other hand, FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating actually rates Hill as a below-average second baseman this year, and just a bit above average in 2007 and '8. Faced with this contradiction, I couldn't rank Hill above Pedroia and Utley, both of whom post outstanding defensive numbers every year.
In retrospect, though, I believe that eighth was too low for Hill. Particularly considering that Baseball Prospectus, like Baseball Info, has Hill as an outstanding fielder in 2006, 2007, and again in 2009 (he was hurt in 2008).
Frankly, I blew that one. And if Hill had lost the award, I would feel like a heel right now. He should have been in my top four or five, and there shouldn't have been any need for a tiebreaker.
The other close one was Wilson at shortstop, as he trumped Troy Tulowitzki by just one point, 86-85. Wilson finished first on five ballots but fourth on two ballots and sixth on the Tango Fan Poll ballot. I ranked Wilson No. 1, but not without serious misgivings because he started only 105 games at shortstop all season. But you know, George Brett started only 113 games in 1980, and he won the American League MVP Award. Wilson dominated shortstops in 2009 the way Brett dominated American League hitters in 1980.
That said, I ranked Tulowitzki fifth, lower than any other panelist; if I'd ranked him third, he would have edged Wilson by a single point.
I take my Fielding Bible ballot seriously. It takes me hours and hours to finish, and I would be willing to bet the contents of my piggy bank that I spend more time on my ballot than even the most conscientious Gold Glove voter spends on his. But I believe I made at least one mistake this time around, and it almost mattered. Next time around, I need to take my ballot even more seriously.