San Francisco Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar lines up a catch in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in the opening home game of the 2019 season at Oracle Park on Friday, April 5, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

With acquisitions of Parra, Pillar, emergence of Duggar, Giants may have elite outfield

Defense may be a strength for 2019 Giants

By Doug Bruzzone

Special to S.F. Examiner

ORACLE PARK — While the Giants may not have overhauled their entire roster over the offseason like some fans were hoping, they did improve in one area: defense. With the acquisitions of Gerardo Parra and Kevin Pillar, as well as Steven Duggar seizing am everyday job, the team has remade its outfield into a very strong defensive unit.

“We really like our defense,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I think our pitchers really like our defense, and it’s just going to give them a little confidence to pound the strike zone. I’m excited about watching this defense all year.”

In 2018, the Giants were in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency, the percentage of balls put in play that became outs, but according to some other measures, like the defensive ratings used at Fangraphs, they were significantly below average as a team. That started in the outfield, where a significant number of innings went to veterans like Austin Jackson, Hunter Pence, and Gregor Blanco, whose best days in the field were behind them.

Bochy also noted that the infield defense is just as strong, with Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, and Joe Panik all having won Gold Gloves, and Brandon Belt a perennial contender for one. Panik in particular is looking better at second base after dealing with a bad hip and some nagging health issues last year.

Bochy is hopeful that he will be able to lean on the Giants defense all year. “It’s one of our strengths,” he said. “It has to be. We’re not a team that’s gonna come out and bang it with a lot of clubs. We gotta play the game. Pitch well, we have to catch the ball. We play a lot of close ballgames, and our defense is gonna play a critical role in our success.”

GAME NOTES:

-Buster Posey, not in the starting lineup on Buster Posey Hat Giveaway Day, is getting a planned day off and is available off the bench.

-Christian Arroyo, the centerpiece of the Evan Longoria trade between the Giants and the Rays in late 2017, is starting at third base for the Rays. Bochy praised Arroyo, saying he’s going to be “a nice player in

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