The 2020 Gold Gloves won’t be handed out until Tuesday, but the real measure of MLB defense came out this week with the announcement of the Fielding Bible awards.
The Oakland A’s have one winner this year, as Matt Olson took home his third straight award at first base. Click here to see the full list of winners.
The Fielding Bible awards are voted on by a panel of a dozen highly respected experts, such as Bill James, Mark Simon, Rob Neyer, and Travis Sawchik. While they don’t carry the mainstream prestige of the Gold Gloves, they are considered in some circles as a more serious version of the traditional award.
Only one Fielding Bible is given at each position, so Olson is the tops in the majors once again. He received eight of the 12 first-place votes, and didn’t finish below third on any ballot, beating out Evan White (Mariners), Josh Fuentes (Rockies), Anthony Rizzo (Cubs), and Jose Abreu (White Sox). White and Fuentes split the other first-place votes. Last year, Olson was a unanimous pick.
This is the 15th year that the FB awards have existed, and Olson is quickly making a mark at his position, picking up the honor in every full season he’s played so far. Albert Pujols is the all-time leader at first base with five wins, including four in a row in the inaugural years from 2006-09. Among other active players, Paul Goldschmidt has won three, and Rizzo has one. The A’s also won at first base in 2010 thanks to Daric Barton.
The choice of Olson is no surprise, as he has earned a reputation as a next-level defender who turns an often overlooked position into a game-changing force. He’s an excellent target for throws from his teammates, and his own outfield-level arm allows him to turn 3-6-3 double plays with ease and routinely make throws to third base that few others even attempt. He’s a finalist for his third straight Gold Glove and it would be a shock if he didn’t win that too.
As for the rest of the A’s, third baseman Matt Chapman missed out on what would have been his third straight award after winning in 2018-19. Instead, he was surpassed by his NL counterpart, Nolan Arenado of the Rockies, who also won from 2015-17. That’s fair enough, as Chapman missed a big chunk of the season to a hip injury and didn’t look like his normal superhuman self when he was on the field trying to play through the pain. He was good, but not Chapman, and he wasn’t even a finalist for the Gold Glove. He finished fifth in FB voting, behind Arenado, Manny Machado (Padres), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (Rangers), and Gio Urshela (Yankees). Chapman didn’t appear higher than second on any ballot.
Back on the bright side, center fielder Ramon Laureano rose up to fifth place at his position, behind second-time winner Kevin Kiermaier (Rays), 2017 winner Byron Buxton (Twins), Luis Robert (White Sox), and Jackie Bradley Jr (Red Sox). That’s well-earned, as Laureano showed vast improvement in his overall defense this summer, which also netted him a Gold Glove finalist nod. He probably won’t win that either, as this FB ranking looks just about right, though it should be noted that Kiermaier is not a finalist for the GG.
Other A’s receiving downballot votes include Robbie Grossman tied for 10th in left field, and Stephen Piscotty tied for 10th in right field. Oddly, Sean Murphy didn’t show up anywhere on the catcher list, with 15 other backstops getting votes.
The full 2020 Fielding Bible lineup:
- P: Max Fried (ATL)
- C: Roberto Perez (CLE)
- 1B: Matt Olson (OAK)
- 2B: Kolten Wong (STL)
- SS: Javier Baez (CHC)
- 3B: Nolan Arenado (COL)
- LF: Tyler O’Neill (STL)
- CF: Kevin Kiermaier (TBR)
- RF: Mookie Betts (LAD)
- UT: Kiké Hernandez (LAD)
It’s the fourth win for Baez (three at UT), fourth for Arenado, fourth for Betts, third for Olson, third for Wong, second for Perez, and second for Kiermaier.