Three Giants win Gold Glove for first time since 1994

Three Giants win Gold Glove for first time since 1994

PHOENIX — Brandon Crawford’s reign as the National League’s best defensive shortstop will continue, but his run as the clubhouse’s only Gold Glove Award winner is over. 

Crawford won his second Gold Glove Award on Tuesday and was joined by first-time winners Buster Posey and Joe Panik, giving the Giants three Gold Glove defenders for the first time since 1994, when Barry Bonds, Darren Lewis and Matt Williams won. Posey ended Yadier Molina’s eight-year run as the National League’s catcher and Panik beat out Jean Segura and 2014 winner DJ LeMahieu.

Posey is the first Giants catcher since Mike Matheny in 2005 to win a Gold Glove, while Panik joined Robby Thompson as the only Giants second basemen to win. The Panik selection came as a bit of a surprise, but only because a concussion limited him to 127 games. He said he was confident once he saw his name as a finalist, and called the selection the culmination of a lifelong dream.

“As a kid, when I would go to the park with my brother and my dad and my mom, my dad would always hits us ground balls first,” Panik said. “He said you work on your defense first and then you can hit. Ever since I was a kid, I made defense a priority. Knowing that I’m in that elite group of fielders to have won a Gold Glove — it’s very few throughout history — it’s something special.”

Posey felt the same way, saying he was hopeful throughout the process that he would finally break through.

“As a kid, I paid attention to the Gold Glove Award probably as much as any,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool deal for me.”

It’s also about time. The Giants have felt for a couple of years that Posey is the best defensive catcher in the National League, and there was disappointment among teammates and coaches last November when he finished second. Unseating an incumbent is difficult in Gold Glove voting, but Posey took another step up defensively and put up numbers that couldn't be denied. He led all catchers with 12 Defensive Runs Saved and was a runaway winner in the SABR Defensive Index, which makes up about a quarter of the vote. Posey finished with 15.2 SDI, far ahead of second-ranked Yasmani Grandal (5.9) and Molina (0.7). 

While Panik dug into the numbers, Posey said he doesn’t pay much attention to advanced defensive metrics. They have treated him well, however, with pitch-framing metrics showing him to be the best in the game at stealing strikes. Posey credited college coach Mike Martin Jr. and former first-base coach and catching instructor Billy Hayes with helping him improve in that area.

Panik has been an eager student of bench coach and infield instructor Ron Wotus, and as a converted shortstop, he has always had the range, arm and creativity to win a Gold Glove. Injuries kept him from having a real shot in 2015, but he did more than enough with his time on the field in 2016. Like Posey, Panik got a boost from SDI, finishing at 8.5, two points ahead of the next best second baseman.

“With the concussion, I didn’t play 160 games or whatnot, but I knew my stats were strong fielding-wise and sabermetric-wise,” he said. “When I knew I was a finalist, I knew I had a chance because of the numbers.”

Panik and Crawford formed the National League’s first Gold Glove middle-infield combo in 14 years. Posey said there are times when he runs down the line to back up a throw to first and ends up shaking his head at a play made by Crawford or Panik, or sometimes both. 

All three mix steadiness with bursts of the spectacular, with Crawford threatening to fill highlight packages on a nightly basis. A year ago, Crawford unseated back-to-back winner Andrelton Simmons. This season he had to hold off Cubs rookie Addison Russell, who tied Crawford with 19 Defensive Runs Saved and led in SDI. Crawford had the support of opposing coaches and managers who have spent years watching him pull outs from thin air. 

“He makes the game look easy,” Panik said. “He definitely elevates my game, too.”

Together, the three elevated the Giants’ defense, which was the one constant in a roller-coaster season. The organization finished as the only one with three Gold Glove winners. 

The award is the first major one for Panik and gave Crawford two to go along with his 2015 Silver Slugger Award. Crawford said he was happy to hear Posey added another item to an overflowing trophy case. 

“I think it was the one award that he hadn’t won,” he said. 

Through eight big league seasons, Posey has an MVP, three Silver Slugger Awards and a Rookie of the Year Award. Like Panik, he finally has that coveted Gold Glove, too. 

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.