The Giants, as a quick scroll down Fangraphs Lane will tell you, are a mess. They’re 21-27, their Pythagorean record says they’re overperforming (their expected record right now is something like 18-30), their second- and third-order winning percentages are even worse than that, they’re 26th in offense, they’re 28th in pitching, and they (still) have the worst rotation in baseball.
But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, they’re doing all right!
The bullpen, as we all know, is great, and has lived up to that billing so far this year, coming in 9th in fWAR as a group. But it’s the defense that has really shined, with Fangraphs ranking them as the seventh best defense in the majors. So let’s go down the list of positions and see where the Giants rank defensively at each one.
Buster Posey is good. Did you know that? Seems like it’s an under the radar story. The real surprise here is that, despite appearances, Erik Kratz graded out very well under the Fangraphs system. The eye test didn’t like him too much, but the computer test did. Aramis Garcia is also keeping his head above water in limited time, and it’s still early for Stephen Vogt, whose shoulder issues have been well documented.
Tied for second in this category are the Padres and Red Sox, both of whom are more than a run behind the Giants. Buster Posey is, in fact, good.
First base: 9th
Brandon Belt’s offensive numbers are down so far this year, and according to the abaci, his defensive ones are slipping too. Belt’s range is down and his errors are up, and that means his defense isn’t what it was a few years ago. His UZR is negative, and if that persists through the end of the season, it’ll be the first time in Belt’s major league career that he had a negative UZR at first.
But even with all that, the Giants are still well above average here. Some of that is due to the play of Pablo Sandoval, who ... (checks notes) currently grades out as (double checks notes) a defensive asset (triple checks notes, just absolutely goes to town on them trying to figure out if I was on mushrooms when I wrote them) at first base. Now, it’s early and these trends don’t have to last. but Belt’s numbers being down so dramatically is absolutely not a good thing.
The Rockies currently have had the best defensive season at first, with Mark Reynolds — who’s apparently good at defense now SKEPTICAL QUESTION MARK — leading the way.
That all being said, the Giants are still an above average defensive team at first base. They’ll take it!
Second base: 5th
After a little bit of a defensive slump (by his standards) over the last couple of years, Joe Panik has rebounded nicely and is having an excellent year with the glove. Yangervis Solarte and Donovan Solano also have seen time at second, with Solarte in particular having done a solid job before being DFA’d just because he “couldn’t hit” or whatever.
The standard bearer at second is the Cincinnati Reds, who have Jose Peraza and Derek Dietrich splitting time at second, and both of them doing extremely well.
Brandon Crawford is a miracle worker and we all know it. What this ranking presupposes is, what if he wasn’t?
Even though Crawford is well on pace to be a positive defender yet again (not shocking!), his numbers have been slipping for a few years now. They’re not enough to cost him his job, but they are enough to bring his rating and overall value down.
The best shortstop play in the majors is coming from the A’s, by the way, which is kind of hilarious considering Marcus Semien’s defensive issues over the first few years of his career. But he’s put that behind him, and now is flying high.
Third base: 8th
Evan Longoria won three well deserved Gold Gloves while he was with the Rays. Last year, that defensive prowess seemed to slip his mind, but his glove is back. You don’t really notice Longoria on defense, and I mean that in the best possible way. There’s no stress when Longo gets the ball. He makes the play, makes it look routine even if it wasn’t routine, and then everyone moves on.
Pablo Sandoval also grades out very highly at third. I like to think that Red Sox fans are bitter at Sandoval’s revival this year, because every good thing I experience gets even better when I imagine Red Sox fans resent it.
The best third base defense in baseball? The Reds, again. Numbers say that Eugenio Suarez is a defensive marvel and Kyle Farmer, in the very short time he’s spent at third, has acquitted himself well
Outfield: The real outfield ranking is in your heart
The Giants are third in right field defense, 19th in center field defense, and 20th in left field defense. They are, overall, 11th in UZR, which is a slightly above average result. Their big stars are Gerardo Parra in right field, Steven Duggar in center, and Mac Williamson in left. Also grading out highly is Connor Joe, so let’s not get too invested in the exact shape of the numbers, but as a general guide to how the Giants stack up to the rest of the league, they’ll do nicely.
First place here: the Twins, who are leaning heavily on Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario to catch just about every fly ball. They have the best record in baseball right now, so it seems to be working.
Overall, the Giants defense has been above average at every position except shortstop, and it’s not like anyone here is worried about the shortstop. It’s one of the strongest defensive groups we’ve seen out of the Giants in a long time, and it’s certainly helping the pitchers avoid earned runs. That won’t get the team to the playoffs, but it might get a little more value out of whichever pitchers get traded by July 31