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San Francisco Giants: As losses pile up, defense remains a strength

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants throws out Wilmer Difo #1 of the Washington Nationals at first base in the second inning at Nationals Park on April 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants throws out Wilmer Difo #1 of the Washington Nationals at first base in the second inning at Nationals Park on April 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
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In a down season for the San Francisco Giants, the team’s defense remains a clear strength.

The rebuild is on by the Bay, and while the San Francisco Giants likely won’t be racking up too many wins this year, they’re still doing their best to provide high-quality baseball—and succeeding in at least in one aspect of the game.

FanGraphs currently ranks them as the seventh-best overall defensive squad. They also check in fifth in the NL and 12th in MLB in defensive efficiency.

Three-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop Brandon Crawford is not the show-stopping, game-changing middle infielder he once was, but he still has an above-average glove.

He has enough flashes of greatness to make him a plus defender overall, and he can deliver a classic highlight from time to time as well:

Crawford’s middle infield ally, Joe Panik, has also received praise (and a Gold Glove) for his defensive prowess. Panik is probably San Francisco’s MVP on the infield for 2019, and his .994 fielding percentage is behind just Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies and Detroit’s Josh Harrison for best in baseball.

The 28-year-old Panik will likely have a good market come trade season, as multiple contenders would love to have his superb glove come October.

Over at third, we find veteran Evan Longoria, who has always been known for his sharp play offensively and defensively over his career. The bat hasn’t quite traveled with him from Tampa Bay, but his play at the hot corner has. The veteran has racked up a 0.5 defensive WAR in 2019, while puts him ahead of pace to pass the 0.9 he tallied all of last season.

Pablo Sandoval has also seen time at third base. The Panda isn’t a top-tier defender like the others mentioned before, but he is more than passable.

Oh, and he did this:

Across the diamond, Brandon Belt has been the primary first baseman, starting 36 games there. His numbers can be a bit deceiving. While he has recorded just a single error at first, he has a negative range factor (-3 UZR) and the worst DEF on the team currently at -3.2. Those metrics are not often kind to first basemen, though, and he remains an above-average option at the position.

Behind the dish, Buster Posey continues to be one of baseball’s premier defensive backstops. Despite missing a handful of games with a concussion, the former MVP is second in MLB in caught steals, and he has yet to record a passed ball or an error.

Stephen Vogt and Erik Kratz both made 11 appearances behind the plate and held their own as well. The San Francisco Giants rank first in FanGraphs’ defensive rankings for catchers.

The outfield is where things start to take a turn, but while they’re not on par with their infield teammates, they’re not miserable either.

Steven Duggar has been the anchor out there, splitting his time between center and right field. He covers a lot of ground, with a team-best 3.1 UZR, and he has an above average arm as well.

Gerardo Parra, who is now suiting up for the Washington Nationals and hasn’t appeared with the Giants since May 1st, is still statistically the second-best defender in the Giants outfield. His offense left a bit too much to be desired.

Somewhat surprisingly Mac Williamson has also struggled offensively, but been quite good with his glove. He has the best DEF of the many left fielders the Giants have trotted out.

The decision to move Kevin Pillar to right field was an easy one based on his negative showing in both UZR/150 and DEF in center field. He is the only qualified center fielder to record three or more errors in center field this year.

Despite ending a low note there, the San Francisco Giants defense as a whole has been among the best in baseball, and that has been one of the few bright spots in a trying season.

Next. Sell-off Series: Building a trade with the Minnesota Twins

The pitching and hitting may be bleak at times, but they at least have the defensive side of things covered.

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