Straw continues to change games with his glove

September 13th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If you were up late enough to watch the end of the Guardians’ 3-1 victory over the Giants on Tuesday night at Oracle Park, you probably held your breath for a moment as you watched Blake Sabol send a high fly ball to deep center field off closer Emmanuel Clase with a two-run lead in the ninth.

Center fielder Myles Straw made sure you could exhale pretty quickly.

Straw tracked it right off the bat. From the moment he started trotting toward the wall, it was clear the ball was going to stay in the park. If he couldn’t make the catch, the Giants would’ve only had a runner on second base with one out — nothing too detrimental, but the tying run would’ve been coming to the plate.

Straw tried to find the wall without looking away from the ball. He knew he was on the warning track, but a dirt patch that seems to be a bit wider than most parks wasn’t helpful when he was trying to determine whether he had enough space to make the play or whether he needed to leap.

“I kind of small crept it a little bit,” Straw said. “I had the arm out just kind of feeling for it. Didn’t feel it. But kind of knew I had to jump just in case I ran out of room.”

Straw jumped and was a little farther away from the wall than he probably anticipated and had a clunky crash to the ground after making the grab. Nonetheless, he secured the out, kept the bases empty and did his best to assure that Clase wasn’t going to have blown saves on consecutive nights.

“That one is a great play,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said.

On the surface, it wasn’t that flashy. Statcast gave it a 95% catch probability. But the process Straw had to go through in order to make the catch made it much more difficult. Still, it wasn’t the toughest play he had in the game.

“That one in left-center was tough,” Straw said. “Probably the wall looked cooler, but the one in left-center was tougher.”

Just an inning prior, Straw tracked down a fly ball in the left-center-field gap at full speed without breaking stride to end the eighth inning, standing a runner on first.

“The other one to left-center. That’s a really good play,” Francona said. “Myles is one of the best. I don’t think that’s overstating anything.”

The two plays late in the game got all the attention, but the center fielder also made another diving grab in the second inning on a shallow fly ball to center field.

His elite defense is no surprise. The Guardians knew what Straw could provide with his glove. The biggest thing he was hoping to provide this season, after struggling in 2022 with a slash line of .221/.291/.273, was more offense. Even though that hasn’t been the case for him this year (.229/.292/.287), he’s never let it impact his play in the field.

Straw ranks in the 87th percentile in Statcast’s Outs Above Average and is tied for eighth among MLB outfielders with six defensive runs saved. But the eye test will tell anyone that he’s deserving to be in the Gold Glove conversation again this year.

“He’s the best in baseball,” Guardians starter Cal Quantrill said. “He is. It feels great. Our whole team, but Straw in particular, locks it down in center field. It just makes you feel good, especially a pitcher like me. I know I’m going to give up some contact, but with my defense, I feel like I’m in a good spot.”