Breaking down "Fielding Bible" ballot

Each winter, I participate in “The Fielding Bible Awards”-- a vote for the best defensive players at each major-league position -- run by Baseball Info Solutions. Our panel includes sabermetricians, sportswriters (such as Peter Gammons and Joe Posnanski) and Baseball Tonight analyst Doug Glanville.

Fielding Bible Award Winners

It’s intended as a companion to the Gold Glove Awards, which will be announced at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN2.

I take my voting for this very seriously, but I also find it incredibly challenging to try to assess not just the best players at each spot, but the top 10.

Picking the top two or three isn’t that hard, but there’s a lot of hair-splitting on the rest of the ballot. One man’s fourth-best third basemen could easily be someone else’s ninth-best.

I put my faith in the various defensive metrics available (including some that aren’t available publicly) and combine that with what I can remember seeing on games and highlights throughout the season.

You’ll see a few references to stats in my ballot and commentary below. A quick primer:

Defensive Runs Saved measures the ability of a player to turn batted balls into outs in conjunction with other position-specific skills, such as defending bunts, turning double plays and deterring base runner advancement.

Good Fielding Play/Misplay & Error ratio: For brevity, I’m going to refer to this as Good Play/Bad Play Ratio. Baseball Info Solutions has staffers watch every game and among their duties is to rate defensive plays as Good Plays or Misplays & Errors, based on a series of rules devised by Bill James and other statisticians.

There are approximately 30 categories of Good Fielding Plays and 60 categories of Misplays and Errors. Think of it as an advanced scorekeeping system that keeps fielders (and official scorers) honest.

My ballot

First Base: 1. Justin Morneau, 2. Adrian Gonzalez, 3. Mike Napoli, 4. Yonder Alonso, 5. Albert Pujols, 6. Chris Davis, 7. Matt Adams, 8. Steve Pearce, 9. Anthony Rizzo, 10. Eric Hosmer.

My take: Why Morneau over Defensive Runs Saved leader (and overall winner) Gonzalez? Very tough call (no issue if someone thinks Gonzalez is better). I decided to reward Morneau’s 57 to 18 Good Play/Bad Play Ratio, which was better than Gonzalez’s 57 to 26.

Second Base: 1. Dustin Pedroia, 2. Ian Kinsler, 3. D.J. LeMahieu, 4. Brandon Phillips, 5. Jonathan Schoop, 6. Darwin Barney, 7. Eric Sogard, 8. Howie Kendrick, 9. Kolten Wong, 10. Gordon Beckham.

My take: I decided not to penalize Pedroia for his season-ending injury and chose to reward him for his fantastic 70 to 22 Good Play/Bad Play ratio (Kinsler’s is 50 to 33).

In the National League, it will be interesting to see if Gold Glove voters go with Lemahieu over Phillips, given that Phillips has a terrific defensive reputation (this was actually one of his better seasons) and makes a lot of flashy plays. If you go by numbers, LeMahieu should have the edge.

Shortstop: 1. Andrelton Simmons, 2. Zack Cozart, 3. Jordy Mercer, 4. Jhonny Peralta, 5. J.J. Hardy, 6. Troy Tulowitzki, 7. Alexi Amarista, 8. Brandon Crawford, 9. Miguel Rojas, 10. Adeiny Hechavarria.

My take: There are a lot of good shortstops and it so happens that nine of the top 10 defenders were in the National League this season. Simmons was the rightful winner. Perhaps the most surprising name on this list is Jhonny Peralta, whose steady 2014 we wrote about earlier in the year.

Third Base: 1. Josh Donaldson, 2. Nolan Arenado, 3. Chase Headley, 4. Juan Uribe, 5. David Wright, 6. Anthony Rendon, 7. Josh Harrison, 8. Adrian Beltre, 9. Manny Machado, 10. Pablo Sandoval.

My take: We are in a fantastic time for third-base defense, with the poster for that being that Beltre, one of the top hot corner patrollers of this generation, placed eighth. There are people not on this ballot (Kyle Seager stands out) who could easily be top-five in the opinions of others and that would be justifiable.

Uribe deserves some props for his excellent season, though it will probably come up short of Gold Glove status.

Left Field: 1. Alex Gordon, 2. Yoenis Cespedes, 3. Christian Yelich, 4. Starling Marte, 5. Dustin Ackley, 6. Brett Gardner, 7. Matt Joyce, 8. Khris Davis, 9. Alejandro De Aza, 10. Chris Young.

My take: This is an extremely tough ballot, once you get past the top four, as there wasn’t much difference in performance between Ackley and those below him. In hindsight, I probably should have Gardner, who has a great rep, higher, though his numbers didn’t stand out as much as they usually do.

Center Field: 1. Juan Lagares, 2. Billy Hamilton, 3. Jackie Bradley Jr., 4. Adam Eaton, 5. Jarrod Dyson, 6. Lorenzo Cain, 7. Leonys Martin, 8. Ender Inciarte, 9. Sam Fuld, 10. Desmond Jennings.

My take: For those wondering why I have Cain so far down the ballot, you’ll feel better if you keep reading to the end. I may have been influenced by more exposure to Bradley than others, but I wouldn’t quibble if you wanted to move Dyson and Cain up based on what they showed in postseason (ballots are handed in before the Division Series begins).

Right Field: 1. Jason Heyward, 2. Josh Reddick, 3. Nick Markakis, 4. Giancarlo Stanton, 5. Marlon Byrd, 6. Nate Schierholtz, 7. Daniel Nava, 8. Kevin Kiermaier, 9. Kole Calhoun, 10. Ichiro Suzuki

My take: Heyward’s numbers were off the charts and the gap between him and anyone else on this list is pretty wide. Markakis versus Reddick for the AL Gold Glove is an interesting race. Markakis has not had good Defensive Runs Saved numbers, but his Good Play/Bad Play ratio is terrific.

Catcher: 1. Jonathan Lucroy, 2. Yadier Molina, 3. Russell Martin, 4. Salvador Perez, 5. Hank Conger, 6. Rene Rivera, 7. Caleb Joseph, 8. Buster Posey, 9. Tyler Flowers, 10. Miguel Montero.

BIS gave us access to not just pitch-framing numbers, but pitch-blocking as well. The combo made Lucroy the pick over Molina, a choice on which I’m sure some will disagree.

Pitcher: 1. Dallas Keuchel, 2. Clayton Kershaw, 3. Henderson Alvarez, 4. Zack Greinke, 5. Adam Wainwright, 6. R.A. Dickey, 7. Masahiro Tanaka, 8. Madison Bumgarner, 9. Mark Buehrle, 10. James Shields.

Keuchel’s defensive numbers (which relate not just to fielding balls, but limiting the running game) led the majors and a review of his highlights showed them to be legit. Pitcher is a very hard position to evaluate, so this ballot may have been influenced more by the numbers than the eye test. Nonetheless, I feel confident in the vote provided given the histories of those listed.

Multi-Position: 1. Lorenzo Cain, 2. Josh Harrison, 3. Alexi Amarista, 4. Sam Fuld, 5. Steve Pearce, 6. Arismendy Alcantara, 7. Ben Zobrist, 8. Daniel Nava, 9. Colin Cowgill, 10. Ryan Flaherty.

My take: BIS introduced a multi-positional award to give players who split time at multiple slots their due. Cain was a fairly easy choice here for his excellence in both center and right field. Harrison, arguably baseball’s best utility man, is also a worthy selection.