Throughout this season, the Giants have had flashes of brilliance, mixed in with moments of complete disgust – typical roller coaster San Francisco baseball (commonly known as “torture”).
After over a month of baseball this season, where do we pinpoint the source of the Giants struggles?
The Giants offense has been much better than expected (3.78 runs per game), but still below the league average (4.2 runs per game). Their pitching has been very effective with an exception of Tim Lincecum‘s rough eight starts. But the biggest reason the Giants have been falling short in close games is their horrendous defense.
As of now, the Giants (and Padres) lead the league with 43 errors in 42 games (including tonight’s opener in Milwaukee, and the Padres game against the Cardinals). I haven’t looked too deeply into crazy defensive statistics before writing this, but I know a team averaging over an error per game is not a good defensive team. In fact, its a pretty darn good indication the team is a terrible defensive team.
The league average for errors by a team is 29 though 42 games. The Giants are well above that mark, as players like Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, and Pablo Sandoval – players known for their above-average defense – are leading the team in errors committed.
Posey and Sandoval have six and five errors respectively, but the biggest concern on defense, is the shortstop Crawford with nine errors in 35 games started. Tonight he moved himself into second place in the league in number of errors committed (only behind Dodger shortstop Dee Gordon who has even played in a few more games than Crawford).
(Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Now, it’s one thing to have a team averaging one error for every game, but to have one player – on a field consisting of nine – commit an error every 3 or four games is just not good at all.
As of tonight, the young shortstop is on pace to make 35 errors this season. Last year, the top four Giants with the most errors (Miguel Tejada, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Fontenot and Chris Stewart) still wouldn’t total the amount of errors Crawford is on pace for.
Some of you may be saying to yourself, “so what? how much harm can Crawford do if he allows a free base once every three or four games?”
To that I say: Are you watching any of these Giants games?
The Giants don’t produce a mass amount runs like the Atlanta Braves or the Texas Rangers. They give up an average of 3.42 runs per game, and average just .36 runs per game more on offense. There is little room for error.
A perfect example of a single error decreasing the Giants chances of a win is tonight’s game against the Brewers. The Giants were up 3-1 in the eighth inning with two outs, Bumgarner was throwing another gem and the Giants were just four outs away from a win. A dropped grounder by Crawford and a prompt two-run homer by Ryan Braun, and now the Giants are in a tie game.
We all know the pitching will be good for the Giants as long as they keep their core pitching together (and with the extensions of Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, it looks like they will), and it looks like their offense is on the rise from rock bottom. The defense, on the other hand, needs some attention.
I’m not sure if the Giants are taking fielding drills before games, because I know for most teams that kind of mid-season practice is optional (and mostly overlooked), but I’d imagine Bruce Bochy and the other coaches should think about implementing it into their players’ everyday routine.
As for Crawford, I’m torn. He is not making the routine plays on defense, nor is he swinging the bat with confidence. He doesn’t have any speed, so a late inning pinch runner role is not an option. Is he wasting a roster spot?
But then I remember, who will replace Crawford if he were to be sent down? Emmanuel Burriss? Not much better. Joaquin Arias? We need him at third base while Sandoval is on the disabled list.
So as of now, I guess all we can hope for is Crawford to get his act together – at least defensively.
In the minors, Crawford never allowed more than 17 errors in one season (2009) and was widely known for his astounding defense among his teammates. Why he is struggling to make routine plays from shortstop is beyond me.
The defense is a problem that needs a good fixing, hopefully the Giants can pull it together or else Giants fans should buckle up for the bumpy ride.
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