SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 6: Pablo Sandoval #48 of the San Francisco Giants dives and takes away a base hit RBI from Ryan Ludwick #47 of the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park July 6, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Over the past week or so, you might have noticed that I've been developing a little blog-crush on Brandon Crawford. I love the way he plays defense. I love his eye. He has something you can't teach: that split-second of recognition after the pitcher releases the ball. It allows him to take more tough pitches than any rookie has a right to. His biggest problem is that when he moves the bat around in a circular fashion trying to strike a thrown ball -- to "hit" it, if you will -- he often grounds out to a middle infielder.

No reason to panic. It might take a year or two or three, but I'm happy with just about every other aspect of Crawford's game.

I remember watching Nate Schierholtz in an at-bat early this year, and thinking that it was possible that I had never been impressed with a single at-bat he had taken in his entire career. Not a one. He'd had hits before -- extra-base hits and everything -- but at that moment, I was pretty sure that all of Schierholtz's hits came on the first pitch of each at-bat. If he got a hit, it was because he went up looking for a fastball, got one, hit the baseball, and thought about how easy baseball was, which was the only time Schierholtz ever thought about hitting. It was the hyperbole of a frustrated fan.

Schierholtz has always been a fine fielder, and his arm is extraordinary, maybe the best I've seen from a Giant in my adult life. But on a scale of 1-to-10, with one representing "no confidence that Nate Schierholtz can ever hit enough to start", and ten representing "fully confident that Nate Schierholtz can hit enough to start," I would have gone with a -1. The guy swung at two balls that hit him in one season. That's traumatic.

He was supposed to have power. A little bit, at least, if you believed in his minor-league numbers at all. Never saw it. He was supposed to hit for average. Other than his small sample, fluky BABIP performances in his first two seasons, he looked every part of a .260 hitter.

Every time I think I'm out, he pulls me back in ...

I wanted him to start for his defense, and anything he provided with the bat would be gravy. Right now, I'm dipping an apple fritter in the gravy. And it's so damned good. It tastes like butter and chocolate and virtue and triumph and chocolate.

Nate Nate Nate Nate. Here's hoping that with regular at-bats comes a functional approach and a complete ballplayer. I believe again. Maybe for the first time. Don't make me dig through Baseball Reference to find guys who magically became contributors when they were 27 ..

Also of note: It's easy to take the bullpen for granted, ignoring their effortless success just because we're so used to it, but isn't it awesome that Pablo Sandoval is healthy? It's a welcome feeling to see him come to the plate against anyone -- Mariano Rivera, Justin Verlander, Spence Josherson -- and that's something that was missing last season.

On a team filled with likeable players that you want to root for, Pablo might be the most likeable. If there was any heartbreak last postseason, which there wasn't, it was the sad, forgotten Panda languishing on the bench in favor of Edgar Renteria, who was obviously finished. Pablo against Mike Adams? There was a why not? feeling instead of a just-get-it-over-with feeling. I liked that. Hello, old friend. Take a load off.

Least Padres/Giants game ever, if only because it tricked you into thinking it was going to be the most Padres/Giants game ever. I liked that too.

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