Major League Baseball’s award season continued on Friday with the announcement of this year’s Defensive Player of the Year at each position, along with Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts being named the overall Defensive Player of the Year. 

Unlike the Gold Glove awards, defensive player of the year honors are determined by a calculated formula that factors in traditional stats like fielding percentage and advanced metrics like edge arm ratings and defensive runs saved. 

Here are the nine players who were named the best defenders at each position in 2016, per

While offense and home runs tend to get the headlines in MLB, defense can play a bigger role in the success of a team. 

A. Brian Ault wrote a research paper for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in which he found a good pitching staff and strong defense lead to more success than just being able to hit a lot of home runs. 

This isn’t to diminish the importance of scoring runs, but one significant reason the Chicago Cubs won 103 games and the World Series is because they were the best team since at least 1950 at converting balls in play into outs. 

It all starts with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was awarded his first Defensive Player of the Year honor at the position. He’s a master at scooping throws out of the dirt and excels in making spectacular plays at a position where defense is often a bonus.

Somehow, though, the San Francisco Giants were named the Defensive Team of the Year. They were certainly not a bad defensive team, finishing second in defensive value and third in defensive runs saved, but the Cubs were first in both categories by a wide margin. 

On the other side of the field, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado remains the gold standard at the hot corner.’s Tracy Ringolsby offered some perspective on Arenado‘s defensive awesomeness after he was awarded a Gold Glove earlier this week:

The Rockies one-upped Ringolsby with this list of stellar defensive numbers posted by Arenado in 2016:

While the actual results for the awards aren’t known, shortstop had to be one of the most hotly contested battles this year. 

Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, Andrelton Simmons and Francisco Lindor all finished within two defensive runs saved of each other. 

Per, Crawford, Russell and Lindor tied for most defensive wins above replacement (2.7) among shortstops. Crawford earned the honor for his outstanding year, though it would have been hard to argue against a number of options. 

Moving to the outfield, Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier remains the benchmark. He led all of baseball with three defensive wins above replacement, per, and did that despite missing nearly two months with a broken hand. 

In right field, AL MVP finalist Betts was an easy choice. He towered over everyone else at the position with 32 defensive runs saved, 10 more than Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox. 

Betts was brilliant whether it was making a spectacular play look routine, leaving his feet to secure the out or throwing out baserunners from the outfield. 

Because Betts’ performance was routinely brilliant and consistent, he was also named the best defensive player regardless of position in 2016. 

As teams continue to put an emphasis on defense, the winners for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year awards show how the game continues to evolve. There is more than one way to win a game, and defense is a tremendous part of the equation. 


Stats per FanGraphs unless otherwise indicated. 

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