Saturday, April 2, 2011
Will the Giants' Defense Prevent a Repeat?
by Kevin O'Brien at 8:15 AM
(Before I start, I want to thank Scott for allowing me to use this forum; with work and the things the way they are, I want to continue to write, but I don't know if I have the time/energy to do all the things necessary to keep up my own blog (Remember '51) anymore; look for me to stop by with musings every now and then).
I know a lot of people may think I'm overreacting to three errors committed two nights ago in the Giants' 2-1 loss to the Dodgers. I'm not. I'm a long term guy and to be perfectly frank, I was happy for the most part with the game. Tim Lincecum was cranking it up in the 94-95 MPH range, Brandon Belt didn't embarrass himself against a legitimate ace (something very important for it shows that he can hold his own at this level and he is not intimidated), and well...we only lost by one run when we probably could have lost by four or five.
However, I am still weary about our chances for a repeat. No, it has nothing to do with Buster Posey's offensive performance (or lack thereof) or the offense in general.
I am worried about the defense.
First off, we have some good defensive players. I'll admit that. Andres Torres can cover ground like nobody's business (his defensive metrics are ridiculous from last season: 21.2 UZR, 10 runs above average according to FSR, 16 runs above average according to TZL), and Posey is one of the most athletic and bullet-armed catcher's in the game. Furthermore, Belt has sterling reports from his time in the minors last year, and Pablo Sandoval is back in shape, and showed glimpses of his newly gained athleticism in the hot corner last night.
Unfortunately, that is where the good aspects of the Giants defense stop.
As versatile as he was last season, Aubrey Huff still brings plenty of worry to the outfield with his glove and range (and lack thereof, as evidenced by his career minus-16.4 UZR in the outfield). His questionable presence is only amplified when Pat Burrell is patrolling left, who is just as bad, if not worse than Huff on a range scale (career minus-39.7 UZR in the outfield). Having both Huff and Burrell in the outfield puts a lot of pressure on Torres, and I don't think Torres can cover that much ground, despite his defensive prowess.
The infield right now isn't looking too hot either. While Sandoval has the penchant for the big play, he also has the ability to make a boneheaded play or errant throw more often than Giants fans would like. Miguel Tejada proved that he is no longer an average defensive shortstop four years ago, and last night didn't do anything to change that mindset. Freddy Sanchez is solid, sure, but staying healthy is a different story. If the Giants get a 130 games from him, it'll be a miracle.
It's tough to stomach as a Giants fan because the pitching is still there for San Francisco. Lincecum looked good, despite his early struggles, and you get the feeling that Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner are on the right track as well (jury is still out on Barry Zito). However, pitching and defense helped this team win a championship last year.
Yes, Juan Uribe didn't look like an average or slightly above average shortstop with San Francisco because of his physqiue, but his UZR suggested differently (9.9 combined 2B/SS/3B UZR in his two seasons in the Bay). Cody Ross helped ease the load on Torres, which in turn shadowed Burrell's defensive inefficiencies since Torres didn't have to worry about right field.
When Ross comes back could that happen again? Probably, so the Giants have reason to be optimistic on that front. That being said, having Huff play right instead of Mark DeRosa (a much better defensive outfielder than Huff) isn't the right temporary solution, what is given up with the bat is probably close to a wash with DeRosa's superior defense.
There are a lot of questions still to be answered and this is a big one that could possibly derail the Giants repeat chances.
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