The Fielding Bible awards were announced today, and despite the Blue Jays being one of the best defensive teams in baseball, they were conspicuously absent from the list of winners. It's tough to argue most names on the list, but I'll place my homer blinders on and do it gladly.
Adrian Beltre and his +32 plus/minus was the third base winner, edging out Evan Longoria(!) according to Geoff Baker. Beltre's RZR wasn't nearly as good as local hero Scott Rolen, but he made an astounding 30 out of zone plays more than Rolen. Watching as many Mariners' games as I did, I observed Beltre charging weak ground balls and bunts nearly as well as Mt. Rolen, which is high praise as far as I'm concerned. Beltre was charged with 15 "errors", 5 throwing versus 10 fielding, similar to Rolen's 2 and 9 split. Numbers like that make sense for rangey guys, the type that will make an error on a ground ball most won't get to, but rarely throw the ball away.
In other words, it is hard to beef with Beltre. Longoria, however, I will contest. In almost identical innings to Rolen, Longroria got to fewer out of zone balls and made plays in his zone at a slightly lesser rate. Longroria started far more double plays, which I suspect is out of a third basemen's hands. Evan also made 4 more throwing errors, as I observed at 9:15 during Game 7 of the ALCS, likely attempting to throw across his body off one leg. A difficult play that perhaps 5 year veteran Evan Longoria chooses to eat rather than heave. The kid can play, but let's not play his rusty trombone quite yet.
The award for right field went to Ricky Guiterriez of the Cleveland Indians. Guiterriez displayed incredible range this season, getting to more out of zone balls than Alex Rios in fewer innings, all while making nearly 96% of the plays in his zone. Everybody loves Alex Rios, he of the (to paraphrase Jonathon Hale) incredibly long strides (range) to trump his bootybacked routes. One huge advantage for Rios is his arm. Over his career, Guiterriez has never shown to have anything but an average outfield arm, while Rios sports a rocketship powered by superlatives. Franky's arm has rated below league average at holding runners in place and creating outs on the basepaths. Were I to wager, I would assume Alex Rios slept with at least Bill James's daughters and wife. Minimum wife.
Lyle Overbay's long under-appreciated defense continues to lack appreciation and pigment. Overbay had another excellent year defensively, but it still didn't compare to Albert Pujols. Pujols is a freak of nature with the work ethic of a desperate Cape Bretoner, yearning to be free. Most fielding metrics have a hard time with first base and the ambiguity of infield throws in the dirt, and I haven't seen enough of Pujols defensively to make a fair assessment beyond the advantage he has in most basic statistical categories. I will say Albert deserved the award out of fear of him crushing my skull in anger.
Most of the selections make all sorts of sense, though Chutely showed during the World Series that he's all man. Bill James and his apostles fine work is appreciated by novices like me, despite my attempts to split the finest hairs. Luxurious hairs that smell of sweet talking points and numerical intrigue.