by Rob Joyce
Every team in the majors has played at least 81 games, meaning the baseball season is past the halfway point already. The first half didn’t go nearly as planned during spring training – the Diamondbacks, Brewers, Rockies and youthful Yankees are among the best teams in baseball, while Aaron Judge is vying for a Triple Crown after hitting .179 in 27 games in 2016.
With the All-Star Game fast approaching it’s time to look back on some of the top moments of the first half, specifically on the defensive side of things. Gold Gloves won’t be won based on a single play alone, but these highlight-reel snares certainly won’t hurt. Here are the top five defensive plays of 2017 (so far):
5) Manny Machado:
The basis of this Father’s Day Weekend Dplay isn’t overly complicated. It’s a backhand stop, with no diving required, with a throw to first. Simple, right? The Orioles’ third baseman sure makes it look that way, but be certain – no other third baseman in the league can throw away from his body, in foul ground, and throw an absolute dart to the first baseman’s chest.
4) Nolan Arenado:
The four-time Gold Glove winner at third is the standard-bearer in the National League at the hot corner. It’s not a surprise that in his repertoire is a play that involves diving, spinning and throwing a strike to first from his derriere, as San Francisco pitcher Ty Blach learned on June 28.
3) Odubel Herrera:
Herrera may be on a brutal Phillies’ team, but he sure covers a lot of ground in centerfield. The 25-year-old is sixth in the league in defensive WAR, and he made an incredibly difficult play look smooth on April 29. Off the bat of Yasiel Puig, Herrera had just four seconds to cover over 70 feet of ground.
2) Dustin Pedroia:
This play takes phenomenal athleticism, for sure, but it takes a spectacular baseball IQ to even be in position to make such a play. In the ninth inning of a tie game on July 3, Pedroia makes a play off a Deven Marrero throwing error that maybe no other second baseman in baseball does, simply because second baseman don’t back up this play.
1) Kevin Pillar:
Pillar hasn’t won a Gold Glove in his career (yet) but he’s one of the two or three best centerfielders in all of baseball. The Blue Jays’ 28-year-old showed off his range and flashed the leather in spectacular style on May 8 against the Indians, living up to his nickname of “Superman”.