ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 1: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants turns a double play over Pete Kozma #47 of the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on June 1, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
There are a lot of different ways for the Giants to become an average offense. Not even joking! Snark-free! Hear me out. Take a couple of the following:
- Melky Cabrera repeating his 2011 season
- Angel Pagan repeating his 2010 season
- Pablo Sandoval staying Pablo Sandoval
- Buster Posey repeating his 2010 season
- Brandon Belt developing into the hitter he's projected to be
- Aubrey Huff hitting his career averages
Nothing too nuts. Nothing too outlandish. There isn't anything up there like "Inject Freddy Sanchez's shoulder with liquid 2006!" Mix and match from the mostly reasonable suggestions up there, and the Giants have a shot at an average offense.
Is it especially likely, though? Was this team set up to have a great chance at a decent offense? Nope. Probably not. But it could still happen, and Pat Burrell and Buster Posey don't need to be air-dropped from a plane leaving Fresno this time.
One thing that I left out there, though, was the possibility of Brandon Crawford contributing in any capacity. Most of the offseason was spent lamenting that the Giants weren't going to acquire another shortstop. I spent time pining for Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Marco Scutaro, and Walt Weiss at some point. I wasn't convinced that Crawford was going to hit. I'm still not. He's currently hitting .133/.235/.267 with a pair of well-timed doubles.
But I'm starting to think I was too harsh on Crawford by designating him as a guy who is guaranteed not to hit. The right description would be an unknown who isn't likely to hit. It's a worthwhile distinction. The former is where I'd lump guys like Neifi Perez. You know they aren't going to hit. There is ample evidence that the aren't going to hit. Every statistical indicator tells you they aren't going to hit. They are Neifi Perez and friends. They meet in the Hall of Doom in Slaughter Swamp, just outside Gotham City. You know what they're about.
I don't think Crawford belongs with them yet. With the last out he made, he dropped below the Mendoza Line for his major-league career. So the evidence is mounting. But what do we really know about Crawford? He tore through A-ball and struggled mightily in AA. Then he improved in AA a little the next year -- hitting .241/.337/.375 in a league where the average hitter hit .259/.332/.397. Then he was hurt. Then he was in the majors.
That's oversimplifying it. But the point is that the evidence isn't overwhelming that Crawford is a terrible hitter. There are gaps in the date. He's spent 44 games in AAA for his career. The bulk of his minor-league numbers are from just over 700 plate appearances in AA -- a little more than a full season's worth of at-bats. That's enough to have an idea of his talent level. It's not enough to make a definitive statement.
Of all the possibilities up there in the bullet points, I'd take a productive Crawford over all of them. Yep, even the development of Belt. If Crawford could turn into a hitter with a .330 on-base percentage and doubles power, that would mean more for the future of this franchise than almost any other lineup-related plot twist. With Crawford aping Jason Bartlett's career path, the Giants could bring Joe Panik up as a second baseman. Pablo at third, Belt at first, Posey behind the plate, Gary Brown in center … you can start to dream about a best-case scenario that isn't totally crazy.
All you need to do is picture Crawford holding his own.
Not bloody likely. Again, he's 2-for-17 this year, and he hit .204/.288/.296 last year. The odds aren't especially great. But I'll give him a shot, if only because if he does turn out, it will be an amazing development with long-term ramifications. And considering that there's a chance that we don't know what he can be yet, I'll take the blissful ignorance for the short-term and hope like hell.