It seemed an odd time for the MLB to announce their Rawlings Golden Glove Award winners, but so it went.
Amid a haze of Election Night uncertainty and shock, three San Francisco Giants emerged as established defenders.
Buster Posey won his first Gold Glove at catcher, breaking St. Louis’s Yadier Molina‘s eight-year reign. Joe Panik broke ahead of Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu and Arizona’s Jean Segura to win his first Gold Glove at second base. Brandon Crawford won his second at short stop, beating out Chicago’s Addison Russell and Philadelphia’s Freddy Galvis.
All three awards seemed possible, almost inevitable as individual highlights flashed on screen: Crawford’s silky-smooth motion, Posey’s quick release and Panik’s hook-shot out from the ground.
Hardware and history aside, the off-season recognition was a gentle reminder that the team holds a solid, yet always blossoming, infrastructure.
Each player led–or nearly led–in the SABR Defensive Index (a statistic that accounts for 25 percent of the award’s selection process) by the season’s end, surging still from the top places they held mid-season.
Posey topped the catchers’ list with an astounding 15.2 SDI–Los Angeles’ Yasmani Grandal sat just behind him with a mere 5.9 SDI–and had the edge in Fangraphs’ Defensive Runs Saved ranks with 12.
It seemed about time Posey take the crown; those numbers tell Gold Glove voters that he’s an air-tight field manager behind the dish. Molina’s underwhelming defensive season ( -1 DRS and .7 SDI) paved a pretty clear path for Posey to walk.
Addison Russell clung to the Chicago Cubs’ rising star and took a pristine defensive season along with him — he ranks first among shortstops, and the National League, in SDI (17.2), with Crawford just below him (15.6).
Russell went to the All-Star game. Crawford did not. Crawford won a Gold Glove. Russell did not.
Both are good, Crawford was just a bit better in the end. He held a .983 fielding percentage to Russell’s .975 and both recorded 19 defensive runs saved.
Crawford could rule the NL shortstop game for a while — what with Andrelton Simmons in the AL now — but young Russell will be challenging him year-in and year-out.
Panik’s win was the stunner. Baseball fans were spoiled by Chicago’s Javier Baez‘s flashy play in the postseason, though the second baseman had his moments, and the numbers to back it.
Panik topped the SABR Defensive Index with an 8.5 SDI, which must have pushed him over the top in light of other middle-of-the-pack defensive stats. He ranked third in the NL in defensive runs saved (3), tied with fellow nominee LeMahieu.
Having Crawford to his right has to be a boost — the pair’s chemistry, their sometimes acrobatic double-play turns made them the first middle-infield team to win Gold Gloves since the Cardinals’ Fernando Viña and Edgar Renteria took ’em in 2002.
Posey and Crawford ranked among the top five in SDI in the entire NL and the team as a whole committed only 72 errors in 2016, a league best.
The trio of shiny trophies tell us, again, that the Giants have something special happening on the diamond. That’s been a rock, the infallible defense, that’s shipped this team into playoff contention for years.
So let’s count: Panik is on the board with his first hardware. Crawford now has two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger.
Posey has an MVP award, rookie of the year, three Silver Sluggers and, now, a Gold Glove.