From SABR member John Dewan at Fielding Bible on October 30, 2014:
The final four teams competing to win their respective league championships this year were the St. Louis Cardinals against the San Francisco Giants in the National League and the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles in the AL. What was the most common element that set these teams apart compared to the other 26 teams in baseball? It was defense. The Orioles and Cardinals had the best defense in each of their leagues (based on Defensive Runs Saved). The Royals were third best in the AL, while the Giants were above average in the NL. Looking at batting and pitching of the four teams, however, only one team ranked as high as third in any major category (Baltimore, third in the AL in pitching).
Yes, Virginia, defense does matter. A lot. All you had to do is watch the defensive shifts that were going on in the playoffs or one spectacular defensive play after the other in the World Series and you would know: Defense wins games…and titles…and rings.
The importance of defense and of using analytics to measure defensive performance by teams and individual players came into its own in 2014. Baseball highlights involving defense are now a mainstay of baseball recap shows. Using defensive metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating has become well accepted. Even the Gold Glove voting has come around to using analytics as a component for determining the Gold Glove Awards. The Fielding Bible Awards, which are announced before the Gold Gloves each year and name only one winner per position in Major League Baseball (instead of two, one for each league), show how this brave new world of defensive excellence works.
In 2014, eight of the ten winners of The Fielding Bible Award were also the MLB leader in Defensive Runs Saved. The other two came in second. So it is now clear that today’s baseball experts trust and rely on the fact that the new defensive metrics can truly measure defense.
And if you watched Lorenzo Cain go get ‘em in the World Series, you’ll be glad that for the first time ever The Fielding Bible Awards have added a 10th category this year: the Multi-Position award. Players like Cain who exhibit defensive excellence at multiple positions will now be recognized each year. The inaugural winner of this award is (drum role here)…the Kansas City Royals’ multiple-position defender Lorenzo Cain, who beat out Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays by three points.
Learn more about the winners here: http://fieldingbible.com
Originally published: October 31, 2014. Last Updated: October 31, 2014.