By Mark Simon
The San Diego Padres have known that Hunter Renfroe could hit for power since he made his big league debut in 2016. But after being known primarily as a home run hitter in the early part of his career, Renfroe is now known for something else: his defense.
Renfroe is the Sports Info Solutions Defensive Player of the Month for July. He edged out Oakland Athletics utility man Chad Pinder in a very close vote among SIS staff.
Renfroe is the second consecutive Padres player to win Defensive Player of the Month this season. Padres catcher Austin Hedges took the honor for June. Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain (March/April) and Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger (May) are the other winners this season.
Renfroe led all players with 13 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) for the month. He saved eight runs in right field, four in left field and one in center field. No other player finished the month in double figures in Runs Saved.
Among Renfroe’s highlights were a diving grab against Alex Verdugo and a leaping catch against Joe Panik of the Giants.
As documented recently on the Sports Info Solutions blog, Renfroe has made significant defensive improvements this season. He’s saved 17 runs overall and recently overtook Bellinger for the lead for most DRS as an outfielder this season. Renfroe has been excellent at both catching balls and deterring baserunner advancement. His five Outfield Arm Runs Saved are one shy of Bellinger for the MLB lead.
“I want to win a Gold Glove more than I want to win a Silver Slugger,” Renfroe told The Athletic about a month ago. He’ll make an interesting candidate for our Fielding Bible Awards. His nine DRS in right field rank fourth behind Bellinger. His seven DRS in left field are one off the MLB lead. He could be a candidate for the Fielding Bible Award for best multi-position player.
So could Pinder, especially given how he played in July. He saved at least one run as a left fielder (3), right fielder (1), second baseman (1), and third baseman (1). Sports Info Solutions Video Scouts credited him with eight Good Fielding Plays, one shy of the most by a non-first baseman (first basemen tend to have the most due to scooped throws). He did this while committing only one Misplay or Error.
Pinder’s presence makes the Athletics a highly formidable defensive team along with first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman.
Among Pinder’s highlights this month were a pretty good impersonation of Chapman at third base to take a hit away from Jorge Polanco, a diving catch in right field to rob Eric Thames of extra bases, as well as this play in left field to take a hit from J.P. Crawford.
Left field is where Pinder fares best. He’s saved six runs in just over 200 innings there this season. But his ability to make plays at other spots adds considerably to his value.
For more on defensive excellence, check out the upcoming episode of the Sports Info Solutions Baseball Podcast (available Monday). San Francisco Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar talks about the challenges of making the diving, sliding, and jumping catch.