Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fielding Bible Versus Gold Glove Awards - 2015

Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler won the Fielding Bible voting, but not the Gold Glove Award
(Photo credit: NBCHardBallTalk.com)


It’s clear that a fair amount of subjective input and interpretation of available data is needed to accurately evaluate fielding performance. With this in mind, John Dewan, owner of Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) and long time leader in the sabermetric community, developed an interesting approach to the evaluation of fielding performance eight years ago.  Rather than relying solely on statistics, he put together a “panel of experts” to select the best fielders at each position. He calls it the Fielding Bible Awards and he includes them in the Bill James Handbook.

The way the Fielding Bible Awards work is each of 12 voters ranks 10 players at each position. A player gets 10 points for a first place vote, 9 points for a second place vote, etc. Among the voters were several prominent sabermetricians including Dewan, Bill James and Rob Neyer, BIS video scouts who studied every single game of the 2014 season in great detail, former major league outfielder Doug Glanville and knowledgeable fans who participated in the Tom Tango Fan Scouting Report.
In contrast to the Fielding Bible awards, the Gold Gloves have historically been selected by managers and coaches.  Managers and coaches still get 75% of the vote, but a statistical component - SABR Defensive Index (an aggregate of Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Chris Dial's Runs Effectively Defended) was added in 2013.  So, it is interesting to see how the two awards compare. 

Table 1 below is a color-coded chart comparing the Fielding Bible and Gold Glove Award winners.  Blue font means the Fielding Bible and Gold Glove Awards matched and red indicates a mismatch.  Of the 18 positions, nine in each league, the Fielding Bible matched the Gold Glove in 10 cases.  There were six mismatches in the AL and two in the NL. 

The biggest disagreement in the American League was at second base where Astros second baseman Jose Altuve won a Gold Glove, but finished 7th in the AL in the Fielding Bible vote.  He finished third on the SABR Defensive Index, and apparently also gained a lot of support from managers and coaches.  Ian Kinsler of the Tigers won the Fielding Bible voting thanks in part, to his first place rank on DRS (+19) and UZR (+9) among American League second sackers.   

There were no big discrepancies the National League.  Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina won the Gold Glove for the eighth consecutive year while finishing second in the Fielding Bible voting behind Giants receiver Buster Posey.  Additionally, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford won the Gold Glove while finishing second in the Fielding Bible vote to Andrelton Simmons of the Braves
So, are the Fielding Bible Awards better than the Gold Glove?  I like them because I believe they are less biased by reputation.  However, I do value the input of managers and coaches in the Gold Glove voting and they are trying to work some statistics into the process.  At the very least, the Fielding Bible is a nice complement to the available quantitative data and an interesting alternative to the Gold Glove Awards. I believe they are a significant contribution to the ongoing quest to more accurately assess fielding performance.

Table 1: Fielding Bibles Versus Gold Glove Awards, 2015

Fielding Bible
Gold Glove Award
Pos
AL
NL
AL
FB*
NL
FB*
C
Russell Martin
Buster Posey
Salvador Perez
2
Yadier Molina
2
1B
Mark Teixeira
Paul Goldschmidt
Eric Hosmer
2
Paul Goldschmidt
1
2B
Ian Kinsler
Dee Gordon
Jose Altuve
7
Dee Gordon
1
SS
Francisco Lindor
Andrelton Simmons
Alcides Escobar
4
Brandon Crawford
2
3B
Adrian Beltre
Nolan Arenado
Manny Machado
2
Nolan Arenado
1
LF
Alex Gordon
Starling Marte
Yoenis Cespedes
2
Starling Marte
1
CF
Kevin Kiermaier
A.J. Pollock
Kevin Kiermaier
1
A.J. Pollock
1
RF
Kole Calhoun
Jason Heyward
Kole Calhoun
1
Jason Heyward
1
P
Dallas Keuchel
Zack Greinke
Dallas Keuchel
1
Zack Greinke
1
*Indicates where Gold Glove winners were ranked on Fielding Bible

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