Few topics in baseball are more contentious than measuring a player's defense. Although there are some guys who most fans can agree on as awful (say, Adam Dunn in the right field), there are others who spark lively arguments that maybe -- just maybe -- he's not as bad as our eyes tell us (say, Alfonso Soriano in left field).
One of the brave souls who has endeavored to statistically measure defensive performance is John Dewan, who is the owner of Baseball Info Solutions, co-publisher of Acta Publications and a Chicagoan. Specifically, Dewan's The Fielding Bible applies, among other things, a "Plus/Minus" system to determine how many plays a fielder made above or below an average player at his position in any given season. The results can be surprising, assuming you accept or at least remain open to the methodology.
Something else Dewan does every year is head up a voting effort to determine who were the best defensive players of the season. The voters -- 10 experts and three "tie-breakers" -- choose the top 10 players by position (including pitcher), giving a maximum number of 10 points to each. The players aren't distinguished by league and must play at least 500 innings to qualify. (Pitchers must pitch at least 100 innings.)
Naturally, we were most interested to see which, if any Chicago big leaguers made the list. Oh, did our headline give it away? Of course it did.
Indeed, Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox won top honors in the pitcher's category, garnering 86 total points, which easily beat runner-up Zach Greinke of the Kansas City Royals (63 points). It probably didn't hurt Mark to kick off the season (pun intended) making a play like this. But he was particularly cited for his defense par excellence in controlling the running game. Congratulations to Buehrle for being, well, just an all-around great pitcher season after season after season.
Anyone else? Alexei Ramirez placed third in the shortstops category, getting 69 points. (69, dude!) That was still fairly far behind second place Brendan Ryan of the St. Louis Cardinals (81 points) and winner Troy Tulowitski (97) of the Colorado Rockies. Another Sox player, Juan Pierre, received a nice nod for this work in left field. He placed ninth with 19 points, edging out vaunted rookie Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies.
And the Cubs? Sorry, not a single North Sider player made any of the lists. Not even Derrek Lee, who's traditionally considered a good defensive first baseman and played more than 900 innings for the Cubs before being traded to the Atlanta Braves. Derrek and, in fact, a few Cubs players did make the "honorable mentions" portion of the voting results (i.e., "others receiving votes"). Marlon Byrd received 13 votes for center field (barely missing a tenth place showing), Alfonso Soriano received five votes for left field (go ahead, laugh) and Kosuke Fukudome got three votes for his right field play.
A few White Sox players also garnered some votes: Alex Rios received 10 votes for center field, Omar Vizquel got four for third base (!), Andruw Jones snagged a couple votes for right field, A.J. Pierzynski caught three nods for his work behind the plate, and John Danks received three votes in the pitching category.
All in all, a decent showing for the White Sox. The Cubs, on the other hand, received a sound smackdown for a season in which they too often appeared completely out of sorts defensively. For a complete list of the results, click here.