9 Days Till Opening Day: Believe in B-Craw

youngcrawford

Here’s a nice palate cleanser: Brandon Crawford. Oh, Brandon, you are the only shortstop in baseball whose fielding is as attractive as his face.

Which is no small feat, considering how attractive his fielding is. Yes, the Giants shortstop since 2012 is one of the best defenders in the game, which is how he’s mainly earned his living. It used to be that Crawford just couldn’t hit, not even a little, but he’s improved each of the last two years and actually was very slightly above-average in 2014. If you had told me that was possible in 2011 I wouldn’t have believed you, but I’m just skeptical like that.

Crawford strikes out a lot, that’s just who he is, and so a high batting average will never be in the cards. In the last three years he’s hit .248, .248, and .246. I predict this year he’ll hit somewhere around .248. The good news is he’s become more patient, with a walk rate that’s increased each year since he became an everyday player: .304, .311, and last year’s .324. Yes, this is inflated by hitting 8th in the order, as he was intentionally walked 7 times in front of the pitcher last year, but in this era and for a player with his defensive ability, a .320 OBP is something you’ll take every time.
The big surprise in 2014 was Crawford’s power. He only bested his career-best home run total by 1, hitting 10, and actually hit fewer doubles than ever, just 20. But he legged out a career-high 10 triples, second best in all of baseball. You could consider that number a bit fluky, as Crawford isn’t very speedy, so don’t expect as many triple baggers in 2015.

He’s still fairly young, only 28 this year, so while it’s hardly reasonable to expect decline, we’re also past the point where we can expect much improvement. If he can hit .250/.320/.380 and play his usual stellar defense, he’ll be a valuable player and tons of fun to watch, if not quite an All-Star.

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