A 12-person panel of experts got together and decided that Byron Buxton’s 2017 season was award-worthy. The Twins’ speedy center fielder made some plays that were simply incredible. Now, he has a Fielding Bible Award to show for it.
While not as well-known as the Rawlings Gold Glove awards, the Fielding Bible attempts to recognize defensive excellence from season-to-season, and from my perspective, the group does a great job with the difficult task. Those folks have taken on the responsibility for 12 years now, and this is Buxton’s first year to earn the honors.
Members of the panel – organized around John Dewan’s book and website, The Fielding Bible – rank the 10 best players at each positions from 1-10. According to the site, a first-place vote earns you 10 points, a second-place will get you 9 points, and so on. The most points at his position wins.
Here’s the excerpt on Buxton from the Fielding Bible website:
With the exception of Billy Hamilton, Buxton is perhaps the fastest current major league regular. Even those rare times when he doesn’t get the best initial read on a flyball, Buxton is able to use his sprinter speed and long strides to cover even the largest of outfields with ease. In 2017 Buxton was the only outfielder to make at least nine plays above average on both shallow and deeply batted balls. Buxton is fearless when he goes after flyballs. Even though he possesses excellent anticipation of where the outfield wall is and just how much real estate he has to work with, he won’t hesitate to crash into the wall and give up his body if it means the out will be recorded, just like he did during the 2017 American League Wild Card game. Buxton’s closing speed and ability to use the proper angles to cut off balls also frequently deters base runners from taking the extra base on batted balls that he is unable to run down.
Well said. I’d also add that his strong and accurate throwing arm can be an asset, too. Buxton’s more than just a really fast guy who catches up to gappers.
Last year’s center field winner was Kevin Pillar, and the year before that it was Kevin Kiermaier – two of the best in the business. It’s encouraging for the Twins to know that they employ a guy who can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of those elite defensive outfielders.
I think Buxton could also be in line to win his first-ever Gold Glove. He certainly has the highlight reel to justify it. Last season the outfield Gold Glove awards went to Kevin Kiermaier, Mookie Betts and Brett Gardner. I think Betts deserves another one, but I think this year should be the first of many for Buxton.
Buxton held a spot in the Twins’ lineup even though he was hitting sub-.200 a couple months into the season. The primary reason he stuck around in the big leagues and in the lineup was because he was already showing a Gold-Glove capability in centerfield.
Buxton stated his case this year to be considered one of the most valuable fielders in the game. He led the world in Baseball Savant’s new stat Outs Above Average, which is a range-based metric that tries to measure how much better a fielder was at turning balls in the air into outs. Buxton’s 25 Outs Above Average was higher than Ender Inciarte (19), Mookei Betts (16) and Lorenzo Cain (15). Buxton finished second amoung outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs.com, where his 24 DRS was second only to Mookie Betts’ 31 DRS. And Buxton was again second among outfielders as measured by Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average, which also favored Betts over Buxton (27.2 FRAA to Buxton’s 23.8).
It’s not breaking news to announce that Buxton is an exceptional fielder, or that he could win his first of many Gold Gloves this winter. He’s already hauled in his first Fielding Bible Award. Gold Glove awards are announced Nov. 7.