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. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”