Crawford earns NL Gold Glove Award at shortstop
Other Giants finalists Posey, Belt, Duffy come up short
SAN FRANCISCO -- Appraising Brandon Crawford of the Giants recently, Chris Speier let his opinion fly like a throw from deep in the hole.
"He's at that elite shortstop level," said Speier, a three-time All-Star at the position for San Francisco from 1972-74.
That evaluation of Crawford echoed throughout the baseball world Tuesday, when Crawford was named the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner among National League shortstops. Crawford, 28, became the first Giant to win a Gold Glove Award since shortstop Omar Vizquel in 2006.
Crawford, who also made his first NL All-Star team this year, cherished his latest honor.
"You guys all know how I pride myself on my defense. It's a big priority to me," he said on a conference call with reporters. "Just being a finalist, I was excited. To find out I won, I was very proud."
Crawford said that he was "optimistic" about winning the award. Yet he still felt "a bit surprised" upon learning that he had wrestled the distinction from Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons, who captured the previous two awards. Winners are determined through voting by managers and coaches (75 percent) and sabermetrics experts (25 percent).
"The class of National League shortstops is so good," said Crawford, who also out-polled Miami's Adeiny Hechavarria, the other shortstop finalist.
Sheer familiarity may have helped Crawford prevail. As San Francisco's everyday shortstop for four consecutive seasons, Crawford has virtually trademarked his ability to make the remarkable look routine.
"He's an athlete, and he has great game awareness," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Crawford acknowledged his improved consistency, particularly in refining his footwork before throws. Crawford reduced his errors total from 21 in 2014 to 13 this year, a personal full-season low that hiked his fielding percentage to .979 from .967. Crawford also partly attributed his individual success to the team's efficiency.
"When everybody's focused on defense and playing well, it's going to be easier on everybody," Crawford said.
San Francisco's inner defense was comprised almost entirely of Gold Glove finalists, namely catcher Buster Posey, first baseman Brandon Belt and third baseman Matt Duffy. Second baseman Joe Panik's back injury likely prevented him from joining this group.
"I would bet that Joe would have been a finalist," Crawford said.
An unofficial, yet very real paradox of Gold Glove Award voting is the tendency for players to be rewarded for stout offensive performances, though it's clearly a defensive award. Crawford distinguished himself in this realm, too. He finished with a career-high 21 homers, becoming the first Giants shortstop to exceed 20 since Rich Aurilia amassed 37 (all but one while playing shortstop) in 2001. Crawford's home run total also led the team, making him the first Giants shortstop to earn that status since Bill Dahlen had seven in 1905 during the dead-ball era. Crawford topped all Major League shortstops with 84 RBIs, something no Giant had accommplished since Speier did so with 71 in 1973.
Posey missed out on his first career Gold Glove Award -- St. Louis' Yadier Molina won his eighth -- though he was named the Majors' best defensive catcher in ACTA Sports' Fielding Bible.