1) Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and their left fielder Tyler O’Neill were deserving winners of the annual Fielding Bible Awards for defensive excellence.
One player is chosen — from the entire major leagues — at each of the nine standard positions. But this year the Fielding Bible added another award for best multi- position fielder. That rightfully went to Boston’s Kikẻ Fernandez. So O’Neill was the best left fielder in baseball this season. Goldy was the best first baseman. Both were deserving of the honor.
2) Here’s what Fielding Bible said about Goldschmidt: “The Cardinals played great defense down the stretch to make the postseason. Goldschmidt was the anchor of the infield, as he won his fourth Fielding Bible Award. Only Albert Pujols (5) has more. Goldschmidt finished tied for the MLB lead in Defensive Runs Saved at the position. The Cardinals infield led MLB at turning ground balls and bunts into outs, both because Goldschmidt could make plays and because he helped his teammates make plays by catching their throws.”
3) Goldschmidt is a finalist for the NL Gold Glove award at first base and should prevail in the voting. But Goldschmidt has been short changed too many times in the Gold Glove balloting, and I don’t trust the voters. The other finalists are Freddie Freeman (Braves) and Max Muncy (Dodgers.) In 2021 Goldy saved three more runs than Muncy, and seven more runs than Freeman.
4) Here’s what Fielding Bible said about O’Neill: “He became the first repeat winner in left field since Starling Marte in 2015 and 2016. O’Neill received the highest vote total of any player, with 14 of a possible 17 first place votes. O’Neill was the only left fielder to reach double figures in Defensive Runs Saved and had the best combination of range (tied for first) and arm (tied for second in Outfield Arm Runs Saved). O’Neill’s arm numbers improved considerably. He had seven assists without the aid of a cutoff man in 2021 (tied for the most at the position) after having none in left field in 2020.”
5) The Fielding Bible award just adds to O’Neill’s outstanding 2021 season. And he’s a strong favorite to win the Gold Glove for NL left fielders. The other two finalists are David Peralta (Diamondbacks) and AJ Pollock (Dodgers.) Frankly it’s a no-contest. Pollock saved three runs defensively this season; Peralta was exactly average with no runs saved. O’Neill has 20 DRS over the last two seasons — 11 more than any NL left fielder.
O’Neill’s 2021 breakout offensively was impressive in all areas:
- His .560 slugging percentage led all MLB left fielders.
- His .912 OPS led all left fielders.
- He was 44 percent above average offensively in park-and-league adjusted runs created, tops among all MLB left fielders.
- He was third among all left fielders with 34 homers.
- He was sixth among all left fielders in runs (89) and RBI (80.)
- He was fourth among all left fielders with 15 stolen bases and had the best success rate at 79%
- Most defensive runs saved (11) at the position in the majors.
All of this is why O’Neill led all MLB left fielders with 5.4 Wins Above Replacement this year. That’s 1.5 WAR above the next-best LF, Toronto’s Teoscar Hernandez.
And O’Neill still has fewer than 1,000 MLB plate appearances. More greatness is on the way.
6) Cards center fielder Harrison Bader just missed out on winning the Fielding Bible honor at his position. The award went to Kansas City’s Michael A. Taylor, who led MLB center fielders with 19 Defensive Runs Saved. Taylor edged out Bader by one point in the voting.
Ouch! I’m not sure about this. Bader finished second among MLB center fielders with 15 Defensive Runs Saved, four fewer than Taylor. But Taylor also played 299 innings more than Bader in center this season.
Then again … 299 more innings is a lot. And players that go to the post more often have added value. That’s the first part of a player’s value: be available to play as many innings as possible. Then again, it’s not Bader’s fault that he missed a long stretch of time after busting a rib while diving for a sinking line drive.
No question, Taylor had a better CF arm than Bader this season. The metrics are conclusive on that. Bader had received six first-place, five second-place votes and four third-place votes. I was surprised to see him placed fourth on two ballots. The two voters that put Kevin Kiermaier above Bader on their ballots cost Bader the No. 1 spot. Bader saved two more runs than Kiermaier this season despite playing eight fewer innings than Kiermaier.
Bader is a finalist for the NL Gold Glove award for center fielders; his competition is Milwaukee’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds. Bradley had nine Defensive Runs Saved this season — six less than Bader. And I have no idea why Reynolds is a finalist; his inclusion is absolutely preposterous. Reynolds played 1,133 innings in center field this season and cost the Pirates FIVE RUNS with his subpar defense. If Bader doesn’t win the Gold Glove for best defense by a NL center fielder this season, the award is worthless.
7) What about Yadier Molina? He’s a Gold Glove finalist for NL catchers. More on that in a minute. But Molina finished fifth in the Fielding Bible balloting behind Jacob Stallings, Austin Hedges, Sean Murphy and Max Stassi. Molina received one third-place vote and two fourth-place votes. Four voters left him off their ballots and he also received one 10th-place vote and a ninth-place vote.
8) Molina has a chance to win the Gold Glove, but I’d be surprised if Stallings (Pirates) doesn’t win the vote by a wide margin. Stallings (Pirates) led all MLB catchers with 21 Defensive Runs Saved. Molina was 11th with 6 DRS and finished near the bottom of the catcher rankings in pitch framing and adjusted earned runs saved. The other finalist is J.T. Realmuto (Phillies.)
As for Stallings, his 21 Defensive Runs Saved were nine more than the next MLB catcher on the list (Hedges) and that nine-run margin was the largest for any positional winner. In addition, Stallings led all regular catchers with a 95.5% block rate and ranked second in pitch blocks overall. He also ranked tied for fourth in Fielding Bible’s pitch-framing metric. He’s a great catcher.
9) I wasn’t surprised — at all — to see Cards third baseman Nolan Arenado finish third in the Fielding Bible voting behind winner Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pirates) and second-place runner-up Matt Chapman (A’s.) Arenado had had a career-low 8 Defensive Runs Saved for the Cardinals this season; his previous low was 12 DRS, accumulated in 2014 and 2018. Hayes led MLB third basemen with 16 Defensive Runs Saved.
Arenado did receive four first-place votes. But he was slotted fifth (three votes), sixth (one), seventh (one) and eighth (two votes.) Arenado’s former team, Colorado, led the majors with 24 Defensive Runs Saved at third base this year — with Ryan McMahon (13) and Josh Fuentes (10) accounting for 23 defensive runs saved while splitting time at third base.
One factor: Arenado did not fare well when the Cardinals deployed a defensive shift, finishing with a minus 3 in defensive runs saved when former manager Mike Shildt put on a shift.
10) Second baseman Tommy Edman is the Cardinals’ sixth Gold Glove finalist for 2021. First of all, it’s a proud achievement for the Cardinals to have six position players up for the award. And the recognition reflects their superb team defense in 2021.
I think Edman has a shot to win the gold — but I wouldn’t count on it. And that’s no disrespect to him. The other finalists are Ozzie Albies (Braves) and former Cardinal Kolten Wong (Brewers.)
The award will likely go to Wong, who was second among NL second basemen with 11 Defensive Runs Saved. (Adam Frazier was No. 1 with 13 DRS.) Edman is down the list a bit; he has 8 Defensive Runs Saved. Albies makes dynamic plays, but had no runs saved at 2B for the Braves in ‘21.
Here’s what Edman is up against:
— Wong’s recent track record of winning the thing; voters cling to past accomplishments, and it shapes their thinking. Also, despite injury interruptions this season Wong still played more innings than Edman at second base this season.
— Albies’ considerable star power; some voters fail to accept that this is a defensive award, and they’ll factor in offense … just because they can, and no one really knows their motives in voting.
I hope you all have a great weekend.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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* All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.