SAN FRANCISCO — For all that went wrong for the Giants in 2017, their pitchers never had to worry when a ground ball was hit up the middle. On Tuesday, Brandon Crawford was once again rewarded for those efforts.
Crawford won his third consecutive Gold Glove Award, becoming the first National League shortstop since Jimmy Rollins (2007-09) to pull that off. He is the 15th shortstop in MLB history to win three Gold Gloves and the first Giant since J.T. Snow (1997-2000) to win a Gold Glove in three consecutive years. Snow, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays are the only players in franchise history with more Gold Gloves than Crawford.
“It was definitely a tough season on the field and off the field,” said Crawford, who dealt with the death of his sister-in-law early in the year. “It’s an individual award, but to at least get some sort of positive out of this season is definitely nice. Obviously we’d prefer team recognition but an individual award is still something nice to look back on.”
A year after having three winners, the Giants were limited to one. Joe Panik was not even a finalist after winning for second base in 2016 and Buster Posey was likely dinged in the final balloting for catching just 99 games. Posey primarily played first base after Brandon Belt suffered a concussion in early August, and he lost out to surprise first-time winner Tucker Barnhart of the Cincinnati Reds.
Crawford was at his usual position throughout, with the exception of an early stint on the DL to deal with a groin injury. If he suffered any ill effects after his return, it didn’t show. Crawford was third among qualified NL shortstops with nine Defensive Runs Saved, and he led the group in Ultimate Zone Rating, per FanGraphs.com. As always, Crawford mixed in the spectacular on a near-nightly basis.
The other National League winners were: Barnhart, Paul Goldschmidt, DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte and Jason Heyward. Barnhart isn’t the only member of that list who could have benefited from the Giants’ lineups down the stretch. Belt finished as a clear leader in the SABR Defensive Index (which counts for 25 percent of the vote) among NL first baseman and he might have unseated Goldschmidt had he not suffered a concussion.
With Crawford, Posey, Belt and Panik, the Giants have a defensive core that would be the envy of most teams. Team officials have made it clear over the past six weeks that upgrading the outfield defense is the offseason priority, and Crawford believes that continuing to rely on steady defense and pitching could help the Giants push past the 2017 disaster. On a conference call Tuesday, he noted that the Giants have a good head start with Johnny Cueto back in the fold alongside Madison Bumgarner.
“Whether or not we improve on our defense by getting anybody we have to put this season behind us,” he said. “Defense is always a big deal and I think in our championship seasons we’ve played really good defense in the infield, behind the plate and in the outfield. If we can improve on that, I think we like our chances going into next year.”