The National League is learning that there isn't a better defensive shortstop than Brandon Crawford in the league right now.
"I don't know who is playing better defensively," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't."
There are different ways to win a Gold Glove. You can do it with the highlight reel, and Crawford's is as long as any. Told once that you have to cycle through a few pages of highlights just to find a specific one that happened semi-recently, Crawford said, "Yeah, but the highlight pages from the first couple of weeks are easy to go through."
Which brings us to the second way you can catch the eyes of Gold Glove voters, who happen to be managers and coaches. Some of them will still look at that "E" count, which isn't totally trustworthy. Ok, it isn't trustworthy at all. All you have to do is sit in an opposing press box to know that the "error" is one of the worst "stats" you could ever use. Still, people look at it, and Crawford piled them up early.
He made 12 errors in his first 60 games. He insisted that he was fine, that he knew he was a good shortstop and could play up here.
Now, he has three errors in his last 67 games, often saving a pitching staff that relies on this defense. Coming into Monday night's game, Crawford was second among NL shortstops with a .985 second-half fielding percentage. That'll count for somebody, somewhere. At this point, quite a few of these voters will look at more advanced stats as
Finally, there are the stats that are a problem. Occasionally some will vote for the name that hits. Derek Jeter keeps winning these, you know. Michael Young has a Gold Glove as a shortstop. In that respect, I suppose it can only help that Crawford had two more extra-base hits on Monday. It shouldn't matter, but it might to some.
He hit a deep ground-rule double and a triple off the top of the wall. "Both of them, off the bat I thought might be out," Crawford said. "You never know here, but I got about as close as you can."
The double was his 26th in 402 at-bats, moving him past Melky Cabrera (25 in 459). Only Buster Posey (36) and Angel Pagan (33) have more.
In the big picture, the National League shortstop race is wide open. These awards tend to go to the same guys year after year, but Troy Tulowitzki (2010, 2011) has played in just 47 games. Jimmy Rollins (2007-09) has tailed off.
It's impossible to know at all how this will shake out. This isn't like the MVP voting where you can narrow the race down and then yell POSEY IS HITTING .395 SINCE THE ALL-STAR BREAK, YOU GUYS. But Bochy has noticed opposing managers and coaches talking about Crawford's defense, and he believes his young shortstop will win a Gold Glove in the coming years, possibly this one.
"It would be awesome," Crawford said. "It's something that I don't even know how the reaction would be. I'm not really even thinking about it, but just to be talked about would be awesome. Defense is something I take a lot of pride in."
That certainly helped Madison Bumgarner Monday night as he was piling up base runners.
"There's no telling what could have happened," Bumgarner said, when asked how the defense helped on a night when he struggled with his mechanics. "I'll try and battle and get out of (the jam), but those (Crawford and Posey's throw) were two big plays."
Asked about Crawford, Bumgarner had a simple answer: "He's got to be one of the best."
"That's pretty cool -- I didn't know that," he said. "It feels good, but hopefully we've got a long way to go."
Bumgarner watched film and said he thinks he's identified the problem, but he didn't have time to make a fix during the game. That made him feel better about the fact that the Giants were able to win.
"It feels better to win a game like that than when you're sharp," he said. "You can still fight through and give us a chance."
His explanation was that Casilla had only thrown 10 pitches in the eighth and he wanted him around for the ninth to face right-hander Chris Nelson. Then Javier Lopez could go after whichever left-handed pinch-hitter the Rockies sent to the plate. It was Carlos Gonzalez, and Lopez got him to ground out. Sergio Romo came on for right-hander Matt McBride and faced Jason Giambi instead. No problem.
"Every play is so important, every pitch," Bochy said of the sequence. "It's more challenging but it's more fun, too. This is what I enjoy and what I love. Here we are, and they're very exciting games."
They're long games, but the Giants haven't been burned lately. Bochy continues to press the right buttons in the final innings, even if you're scratching your head sometimes.
I do, however, wish he would have brought a new reliever in for the top of the ninth after letting Casilla hit in the bottom of the eighth. Would have been entertaining.