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Survey Says Defense Important, Beltre Good At It

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The 2008 Fielding Bible Awards came out a little while ago, and if you haven't seen them by now, you probably just did. The FBAs are determined by a panel of ten experts who (edit: may or may not) know more than you do so shut up, and while everybody and his mother have their own questions and concerns when it comes to defensive evaluation, the FBAs and the underlying +/- are solid, and

Third Base – Adrian Beltre, Seattle
It was a runaway victory for Adrian Beltre. Beltre won the award two years ago in the closest vote we’ve ever had (the tiebreaker was invoked) but this year his 36-point margin of victory, 90 points compared to 64 points for second-place finisher Evan Longoria, was the second largest margin of victory in this year’s voting.

However unconventional the means, Adrian Beltre is a star. He's an above-average hitter who is by every decent measure one of, if not the best defensive third baseman in baseball. Of all the reasons why we love the guy to death, this is the most significant: he's a freaking hell of a player.

I think we have enough evidence to say that Beltre's a ~+15 run defensive third baseman. Okay, so it's more like +10 < x < +20, but for the sake of simplicity, just stay with me for a minute. Beltre has hit .266/.319/.454 in his time as a Mariner, with ~+15 defense. If you have trouble visualizing that, it's worth the same as a guy who hit .278/.339/.506 with +0 defense. .278/.339/.506, in Safeco Field. Beltre's defense has been worth the equivalent of about 70 OPS points a season. That's huge. Yeah, it'd be nice if he didn't swing himself into embarrassing strikeouts so often, but everybody short of Albert Pujols has a flaw, and in the end the only thing that matters is the overall package. Beltre's is excellent. While it might be sexier if he added some offense at the expense of his defense, it wouldn't actually make the team any better, and picking on Beltre for his one shortcoming is like picking on Ichiro for hitting too many singles. Quit looking for perfection and start appreciating greatness.*

Other things of note, regarding the Fielding Bible Awards and defense in general:

  • By +/-, Casey Kotchman has been the second-best defensive first baseman in baseball since 2006, coming in at 42 plays above average.
  • Albert Pujols is #1, with double that.
  • Franklin Gutierrez is a titan in the corner outfield. Despite not yet having played a full season, +/- has him as the best LF/RF of the past three years, and what's more is that UZR pretty much agrees with this conclusion. You wouldn't think that a .690 OPS would work very well out of a corner, but there you go. If I were a GM, and one day I got bored of routine and wanted to spice things up, I'd collect a whole shitload of guys like Gutierrez and try to keep my pitching staff under 550 runs. It might not work out, but I'd have fun, and that's really all I care about in my hypothetical since I would've probably already won like ten championships by then. 
  • The only way Chase Utley will ever get the respect he deserves is if he personally kills Ryan Howard.
  • The Brewers picked up Mike Cameron's $10m 2009 option. This is going to go down as one of the best moves of the offseason, although nothing's ever going to top the deal the A's got with Mark Ellis. Billy Beane is going to watch the Orlando Hudson negotiations and laugh, and laugh. 
  • The Royals went out of their way to trade for Mike Jacobs the other day. Given his horrible, horrible defense, Jacobs is essentially a replacement-level player, a no-glove bat without a very good bat. Leo Nunez isn't really much of a prize, but a young reliever who hits the low 90s is more valuable than a guy who sucks, and I'm beginning to wonder if Dayton Moore actually has a clue what he's doing.

* the same goes for whoever ends up cheering for him next September