The Giants’ defense has been much sharper this year than it was last year. The introduction of Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey at premium positions, with J.D. Davis playing like a Gold Glover and more continuity in the outfield has provided more consistently clean fielding.
It didn’t look like it on Wednesday.
Three errors, a passed ball, and more unconverted outs led to three unearned runs. Anthony DeSclafani surrendered two homers, but neither his defense nor order helped him out in a 7-1 loss. The Giants (24-25) out-hit Minnesota 10 to 7, but they recorded season-highs in runners left on base and errors.
Two defensive miscues in the second inning hurt DeSclafani more than he hurt himself.
Willi Castro’s leadoff double should’ve been caught, but Michael Conforto took a poor route to it in right field. Castro’s contact was certainly well hit, with a 109.6 mph exit velocity and .900 expected batting average, but it whistled past Conforto’s ear when he didn’t take a first step back.
Later in the inning, Blake Sabol dropped a third strike, inspiring Twins runners to advance to second and third. Sabol scampered to the passed ball and threw down accurately and in time to second, but Brandon Crawford missed the ball. That would’ve been the second out of the inning. Instead, the Twins tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly.
Neither mishap registered as an error, but neither were winning plays behind DeSclafani.
DeSclafani was on pace for his quickest and best inning in the third, when he struck out Donovan Solano and Alex Kirillof. But then Crawford committed his fifth error of the season and Brett Wisely let a routine grounder scoot through his legs for another error.
Wisely’s Little League mistake gave the Twins a 4-1 lead. Then the Giants bungled a first-and-third set play, with Wisely cutting off Sabol’s throw to second and sailing the return up the third-base line. Wisely could have just tagged out the runner at second, and instead gifted Minnesota a third unearned run.
The Twins added another run in the fourth on a walk, single and wild pitch. The defense didn’t deserve all the blame, but a cleaner performance would have made the game more competitive.
Last season, the Giants ranked last in Fangraphs’ catch-all defensive metric. Their roster construction skewed too far in the direction of hitting, sacrificing fielding. So far this year, a more balanced SF ranks sixth.
That makes Wednesday’s performance more of an outlier than a trend. But San Francisco’s most reliable fielder, Crawford, has shown some slippage.
Last year, Crawford had his lowest fielding percentage in a full season. The four-time Gold Glover showed stretches of brilliance at shortstop, but still finished with -6 defensive runs saved.
Now 36, Crawford’s decline appears to be continuing. He doubled and walked twice to bring his OPS to only .575, yet his glove hasn’t made up for the lack in production. He ranks in the 40th percentile in outs above average and has the lowest fielding percentage of his 13-year career.
Crawford and San Francisco’s defense let DeSclafani down, but it’s not like the starter was lights-out, either. DeSclafani’s second home run allowed of the game knocked him out after five innings pitched; he allowed 11 barrels.
Meanwhile, the Giants couldn’t out-hit their mistakes. The Giants went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position, leaving 15 on base. Michael Conforto, the team’s hottest hitter, left the bases loaded in the sixth after Thairo Estrada and Mitch Haniger did the same. Conforto, Haniger and Blake Sabol — SF’s 3-4-5 hitters, combined to go 1-for-14 with five strikeouts and a walk.
That’s how San Francisco could record more base hits in such a lopsided loss.