Brandon Crawford’s reign as the National League’s best defensive shortstop will continue, but his run as the clubhouse’s only Gold Glove winner is over.
Crawford won his second Gold Glove Award on Tuesday and was joined by first-time winners Buster Posey and Joe Panik, giving the Giants three Gold Glove defenders for the first time since 1994, when Barry Bonds, Darren Lewis and Matt Williams won. Posey ended Yadier Molina’s eight-year run as the National League’s catcher and Panik beat out Jean Segura and 2014 winner DJ LeMahieu in a selection that came as a bit of a surprise since injuries limited Panik to 127 games.
Posey is the first Giants catcher to win a Gold Glove since Mike Matheny in 2005, while Panik joined Robby Thompson as the only Giants second basemen to win. Panik and Crawford are the National League’s first Gold Glove middle-infield combo in 14 years.
The Giants have for years felt that Posey is the best defensive catcher in the National League. He finally has the hardware to prove it. Unseating an incumbent is difficult in Gold Glove voting, but Posey took another step up defensively this season and put up numbers that couldn't be denied. He was a runaway leader in the SABR Defensive Index, which makes up about a quarter of the votes, and led all catchers with 12 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs.com.
Posey had just three errors and two passed balls in a career-high 122 starts behind the plate. He caught 37 percent of base runners, a career high.
Posey generally is considered one of the top pitch-framers in the game, with some tracking sites rating him as the best this past season. He also is known as a tremendous game-caller.
“He’s the quarterback on the field,” general manager Bobby Evans said Tuesday. “Day after day, guys rely on him.”
Posey is known for his calmness behind the plate, a trait that surges through the middle infield, too. Crawford and Panik have given the Giants a lockdown combination up the middle, mixing steadiness with bursts of the spectacular.
A year ago, Crawford edged back-to-back winner Andrelton Simmons. This season, he beat out Philadelphia’s Freddy Galvis and Chicago’s Addison Russell, a rookie who gave Crawford a run with a strong finish. Crawford and Russell finished tied with 19 defensive runs saved, but Crawford held a significant edge in UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), 21.3 to 15.4. While playing a career-high 155 games, Crawford made a career-low 11 errors.
The 29-year-old was one of four Giants finalists a year ago. Panik was the lone exception on the infield because of injuries, but a concussion couldn’t keep him from breaking through in 2016.
Panik tied LeMahieu with three defensive runs saved, but had a clear edge in UZR. When SABR released the final regular-season rankings in August, Panik was at 5.3 SDI, with no other NL second baseman above 1.2.
The Gold Glove is the first major award for the 26-year-old. Crawford now has two of them to go along with a 2015 Silver Slugger Award. Posey’s trophy case is overflowing at this point. Through eight big league seasons, he has an MVP, three Silver Slugger Awards, a Rookie of the Year Award, and now, finally, that coveted Gold Glove.