On November 5, I received my 2016 edition of The Bill James Handbook. I write a lot about the Handbook every winter. It's a fun book. I'll find myself looking through it all the way until the 2017 edition's delivered next November. It contains career records for every player who appeared in a major league game in 2015 as well as all sorts of features on pitching, managing, fielding, hitting, and baserunning. Want to know who went from first to third on singles the most times in 2015? (The Rangers' Elvis Andrus, 20 times.) Wondered which reliever was called on the most frequently to save a game with the tying run on base? (Cleveland's Cody Allen, nine times, more than twice as many as anyone else, and he converted seven of them.) Which manager used the most pinch runners? (The Angels's Mike Sciocia, by far, with 62.) You can order it here or at your preferred book retailer. I really like it.
The first thing I do every year when I get the Bill James Handbook is check out the Fielding Bible Awards. These are fielding awards voted by a panel of twelve baseball experts. You've heard of several of them, probably: Bill James, ESPN analyst Doug Glanville, MLB Network host Brian Kenney, sportswriter Peter Gammons. The voters receive data from John Dewan's Baseball Info Solutions, which compiles and distributes baseball statistics to teams and consumers, to help them make their decisions. The two key differences between the Fielding Bible Awards and the Gold Glove Awards is that the former are voted by baseball experts who use statistics, while the latter are voted by managers and coaches. I like to compare how the more empirical vote does compared to the more intuitive one. The stats vs. scouts storyline is a false dichotomy, and the Gold Glove voting includes a statistical component, but I always look to see how the Gold Glove winners do in the Fielding Bible voting to get a read on how the much the two views of the game are diverging. The other key difference is that there is one Fielding Bible Award per position, while the Gold Gloves are awarded to a player in each league. Here's the rundown:
FIRST BASE: Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt won the Fielding Bible Award. The Gold Gloves went to Goldschmidt in the NL and Kansas City's Eric Hosmer in the American League. Hosmer finished in eighth in the Fielding Bible vote, but he trailed only one American League first baseman, the Yankees' Mark Teixeira, who was sixth in the Fielding Bible vote, so there isn't much disagreement.
SECOND BASE: Detroit's Ian Kinsler won the Fielding Bible Award. The American League Gold Glove went to Houston's Jose Altuve, who finished 14th in the Fielding Bible vote overall, seventh in the American League. Miami's Dee Gordon won the National League Gold Glove and was second to Kinsler in the Fielding Bible voting.
THIRD BASE: Colorado's Nolan Arenado won the Fielding Bible award, edging out Texas's Adrian Beltre. They won the National and American League Gold Gloves, respectively, so there was no disagreement.
SHORTSTOP: Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons was a unanimous Fielding Bible Award winner for the third year in a row, but the National League Gold Glove was San Francisco's Brandon Crawford, who was second in the Fielding Bible voting. Kansas City's Alcides Escobar won the American League Gold Glove, but he was ninth overall and fourth in the American League Fielding Bible voting, which was led by Cleveland rookie Francisco Lindor.
LEFT FIELD: Pittsburgh's Starling Marte won the Fielding Bible Award and the National League Gold Glove. Kansas City's Alex Gordon was second in the Fielding Bible voting followed by the Yoenis Cespedes, who played for Detroit and the Mets and won the American League Gold Glove.
CENTER FIELD: Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier was a unanimous Fielding Bible Award winner and the American League Gold Glove. Arizona's A.J. Pollock took the National League Gold Glove, and he was the top National Leaguer in the Fielding Bible vote as well.
RIGHT FIELD: St. Louis's Jason Heyward was a unanimous Fielding Bible winner and he took the National League Gold Glove too. Los Angeles's Kole Calhoun won the American League Gold Glove and was the top-rated in his league in the Fielding Bible voting too.
CATCHER: San Francisco's Buster Posey won the Fielding Bible Award but he was edged out by St. Louis's Yadier Molina for the National League Gold Glove. The American League Gold Glove went to Kansas City's Salvador Perez, who was fourth in the Fieding Bible voting, behind Posey, Molina, and Toronto's Russell Martin. So each Gold Glove went to league's second-rated catcher in the Fielding Bible vote.
PITCHER: I've always been skeptical of fielding awards for pitchers because the sample sizes are so small. The Fielding Bible Award went to Houston's Dallas Keuchel, who also won the Gold Glove. The National League Gold Glove went to the Dodgers' Zack Greinke, who was second in the Fielding Bible vote.
So that wasn't all that controversial, was it? Of the eighteen Gold Gloves, eleven went to the player who finished first in his league in the Fielding Bible vote, and five went to the player finishing second. The only differences larger than that were the American League Gold Gloves for second base (Altuve was seventh in the league in the Fielding Bible vote) and shortstop (Escobar was fourth).
It wasn't always this way. What this is saying is that the empirical view and the intuitive view are getting closer together. I'll leave it to you to figure out who's influencing whom.