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Evan Longoria has become a Good Giant

After a forgettable debut, Evan Longoria turned in a fine season with plenty of big moments.

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

.254/.325/.437, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 101 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR

I don’t remember how many times last year I thought to myself, “If only Evan Longoria walked like he used to, this would be fine.” In between a slow start and a broken hand during the first year of his Giants tenure, Longoria hit for adequate power, but he continued a worrying trend of putting up walk rates that were lower than the year before.

Through the first month of the 2019 campaign, he looked like he’d lower his walk rate yet again, but Longoria turned things around. On the year, he walked 8.5 percent of the time, his highest rate since 2013. It’s hard to pinpoint why the walk rate shot back up. Longoria’s decline in walk rate coincided with a rise in aggression. This year, Longoria swung slightly less often and didn’t chase out of the zone as much, but neither change was big enough to explain a doubling in walk rate. Pitchers threw him the lowest percentage of strikes that he had seen in his career, so maybe he was just getting lucky.

Looking at Baseball Savant’s swing and take profiles, it looks like Longoria did something differently. This what Longoria’s profile looked like this year. Overall, Longoria was worth four runs based on when he took, when he swung, and what he did with the pitches he swung at. Pay attention to the orange shadow zone.

-3 runs doesn’t seem all that great, but compare it to what he did last year.

-3 is a whole lot better than -20. Longoria put up -12 runs in 2018 and the difference was almost entirely what he did on pitches on the edge of the strike zone. Longoria was giving up most of that value when he swung at those pitches, putting up -19 swing runs on shadow zone pitches. This year, that was down to -4. What that tells me is that Longoria was selecting better pitches to hit while also doing more damage against those pitches.

Longoria also improved on defense at least according to the eye test. The only metric he improved was UZR which doesn’t account for shifts, so take that with an additional grain of salt. He committed exactly as many errors (15) and was worth exactly as many defensive runs saved this year (7) as he was last year, but I didn’t hear anyone grumbling about Longoria’s defense in 2019.

All that adds up to a perfectly average 2.0 fWAR which was good enough for second on the team among position players behind Mike Yastrzemski. Maybe there are more exciting options at third base, but the Giants could certainly do worse.

Role on the 2019 Team

Longoria provided insurance in case something happened to Mike Yastrzemski or Kevin Pillar that would have prevented them from hitting the 20-home run mark.

More than that, Longoria delivered his first big moments in a Giants uniform. His bases clearing double against the Dodgers back in April was the first time he got to be the hero. Later in the year, he broke up German Márquez and Jack Flaherty’s no-hit bids. The latter he did in spectacular fashion with what wound up being a game-winning solo homer.

This was a year where Longoria began to cement his Good Giant status. Last year, he was just another guy who was not Matt Duffy, but I get the sense fans are starting to warm up to him.

Role on the 2020 Team

With the addition of Anthony Rendon, Longoria will slide over to first base once Belt is traded to the White Sox.

How ‘Farhan’ is Evan Longoria?

Longoria might be a swell guy who puts Digimon on his bat knobs because his kids are coo-coo for those digital monsters, but Farhan Zaidi has value to consider. Longoria just turned 34, he’s league average, he plays one position, and he doesn’t make the league minimum. There’s not a lot for Farhan Zaidi to get excited about here. That’s why he receives 1.5 Farhans out of 4.