I’m looking forward to Brandon Crawford’s at-bats. I’m not looking forward to Tejada’s at-bats ... at all.
That’s a quote from Mike Krukow today on KNBR. There’s a spectrum of veteran tolerance. On the left, you’ll find the great unwashed internet commentors. You know: you, the person reading this right now. You’re probably too hard on veterans and too easy on prospects. That’s just how it is. The prospect’s abilities are only limited by your imagination, while the veteran is stinking in front of you every day.
On the far right of the veteran tolerance spectrum is Bruce Bochy. For him, every veteran is just a hot streak away from breaking their slump for good. If Randy Winn gets going for the Sandy’s Crab Hut softball team this month, he could probably slide right into a Bochy lineup. There are probably some positives from this approach -- a veteran who knows his manager isn’t one for knee-jerk decisions is a veteran who probably isn’t going to panic as the struggles continues. Mostly, though, it’s just maddening to watch.
It’s hard to say exactly where Krukow is, but it’s fair to assume he’s a heckuva lot closer to Bochy on the spectrum than he is to the folks around here. If a guy has been around for a decade or two, he’s built up some veteran scrip that he can spend with old-school guys like Kruk and Bochy. So when Krukow turns (respectfully, of course) on a veteran, it’s kind of a lineup bellwether. It’s a sign that it’s not just the lunatic fringe that is clamoring for something new.
ZiPS took a look at Crawford’s 2010 in the Eastern League, and projected that he’d hit .226/.288/.341 in the majors with average defense. Tejada is hitting a ghastly .217/.241/.277, and his defense isn’t good at all compared to other shortstops around the league. So the answer seems simple: Crawford gets a bulk of the playing time at short until Pablo Sandoval gets back. If Crawford looks anything like a major league hitter, the move will make itself because it’s hard to be worse than Tejada is now.
Except Bochy. Oh, Bochy. You know that’s not how it’s going to work. Aaron Rowand lost his job last year because of veterans. If Andres Torres were 21 instead of 31, he would have stayed on the bench, I’d gather. Maybe that’s unfair speculation, but it’s an unfairness with a little supporting evidence.
So if the question is Crawford or Tejada?, Tejada or Crawford?, can Bruce Bochy make the right decision? My answer in two parts:
- It’s not going to make a big difference offensively.
Tejada is bad, and his bat is bound to a different planet’s gravity right now, but he isn’t this bad. He’s been getting unlucky, hitting some balls hard right at people. And while Crawford is a good story, he’s never hit well above A-ball. There’s a chance that he tweaked his swing to maximize his tools, and now he’s just going to explode as a major leaguer. There’s a far greater chance that he’s still a work in progress -- a glove-first guy that will take a while to even be an average hitter for his position.
The difference in defense is enough to give Crawford every chance to succeed. He should be in every lineup until Sandoval comes back. Let the league adjust to him. Let him adjust to the adjustments. See if he can hold his own.
But he’s not going to start when Pablo comes back. Just accept it. Bruce Bochy is on the case. The guy has his strengths -- finding the right time to make a veteran-to-rookie transition is not one of them. The Tejada/Crawford kerfuffle isn’t going to go the way you want, but it’s also not going to make much of a difference with wins and losses. I don’t believe in Tejada’s ability, really, but I can’t go goofy for Crawford just yet. All of my skepticism chips are riding with Ryan Vogelsong right now. With Crawford, I just have to look at what he’s done as a professional, and it’s not a body of work that suggests he can hit in the majors after skipping AAA entirely.
At the same time, I couldn’t agree with Krukow more. I don’t want to watch Tejada. I want to watch Crawford. While it isn’t likely for Crawford to hit well, it’s more fun to analyze his swing than Tejada’s. So enjoy these next couple of weeks, but when Crawford sits for Tejada, wail and moan because baseball just became a little less interesting, not because the Giants are substantially worse. There just aren’t a lot of great options.
Unless Crawford really is this much of a badass, that is. I think maybe I’ll just forget that I wrote this and expect him to be exactly that.