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San Francisco Giants: Defensive metrics back the eye test

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 11: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants fumbles a ball hit by Tony Wolters #14 of the Colorado Rockies in the top of the second inning at Oracle Park on April 11, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 11: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants fumbles a ball hit by Tony Wolters #14 of the Colorado Rockies in the top of the second inning at Oracle Park on April 11, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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San Francisco Giants
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – APRIL 11: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants fumbles a ball hit by Tony Wolters #14 of the Colorado Rockies in the top of the second inning at Oracle Park on April 11, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

In order for the San Francisco Giants to succeed during the 2019 season, a strong pitching staff and a stout defense will need to carry the load.

The San Francisco Giants have two things going for them: Pitching and defense.

The pitching has been as advertised. The staff ranks third in the majors with a 2.68 ERA and the bullpen has been particularly excellent with an MLB-leading 1.86 ERA.

Meanwhile, the defense has also been rock solid, and the metrics to back it up.

The 2019 season is still in small sample territory, but the Giants regulars are demonstrating encouraging trends on defense, especially in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).

The Giants tallied 32 DRS last season to rank 12th in the majors, despite a -4 DRS showing from the outfield as a whole.

However, this year’s outfield defense has been vastly improved, which we’ve touched on in the past. The current crop of outfielders is seemingly capable of covering every inch of the spacious Oracle Park outfield grass.

The current outfield contingent consists of Steven Duggar, Kevin Pillar, and Gerardo Parra, with newly-acquired Tyler Austin also seeing some action in left field when the Giants face a left-handed pitcher.

Just how good has the Giants defense been?

The table below shows the DRS total for each regular position player on the roster heading into Sunday’s game, via FanGraphs.

With that group leading the way, the team currently leads the majors with 26 DRS overall, well ahead of the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers at 15 DRS.

If Pillar winds up being the worst defensive position player at the end of the year, the Giants will be in excellent shape. The longtime Toronto Blue Jays center fielder began the season with an impressive 64 DRS in his career.

The fact that the Giants’ defense has been a strength is not a surprise.

This team is built on pitching and defense. The eye test confirms the defense has been good, and so does DRS.

If the early trends continue, this year’s Giants team could wind up being the most impressive defensive group the club has had since 1993. That year, four different players took home Gold Glove Awards—catcher Kirt Manwaring, second baseman Robby Thompson, third baseman Matt Williams and left fielder Barry Bonds.

Defense won’t put runs on the board for a 2019 Giants team that has struggled offensively, but it may prevent an extra run or two from scoring.

Next. Who makes the Giants' franchise Mt. Rushmore?

For a team with a slim margin for error, stout defense could prove to be the difference in a lot of games.

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