Hello. I just watched every Brandon Crawford defensive highlight on MLB.com. There were a lot of them. I also had to wade through all these videos of dingers, can you imagine?
The goal is to present my favorite defensive plays of Brandon Crawford's Gold Glove season. There are some limitations with this, though. While I trust MLB.com to curate the spectacular plays, there's no way they can get all of the absurd plays that seem routine for Crawford. The backhand deep in the hole and the throw that gets the runner by four steps. The 47th different over-the-shoulder catch that you wouldn't expect a shortstop to make on a pop-up to short-center.
That's fine, though. We can see those suckers in our mind's eye, he does it so often. Here are some of my favorite Crawford plays from last season, with the caveat that there were so many, I probably missed a few:
REVERSE GAME 7
It's notable because it's the opposite play that Joe Panik and Crawford made in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, which helped the Giants win the championship. Remember how the Royals demon-flogged other teams to death and racked up base hit after base hit after base hit, keeping the line moving? That's because the other teams can't do that, really.
The similarity is what grabs you immediately, but it's a pretty play even without the context.
There are a lot of these kinds of plays in the Crawford archives. This one is notable because it was the hardest hit. Bonus points for the runner in scoring position, too.
The camera doesn't cut to the play until right before Crawford snags it, so there's a sense of "Wha' happened?" Think about it like this, then: The producer cut to the shot with a flick of the finger, which sent a command roughly the speed of light. During that time, Crawford had to react to the ball, move in position, then adjust to the weird hop.
Long story short: If a player is finishing up a spectacular play right when the camera cuts to him, add 459 spectacular points because it probably was even more impressive than it looked.
Hella smooth transfer
Love this one. Seems like the natural reaction would be to glove-flip it, but you can see how Crawford has so much more control with just a simple transfer to his throwing hand. They didn't get the double play because Starling Marte runs so well, but it would have been a contender for top play if Yadier Molina was running.
Which shouldn't matter, so it's still a contender for top play.
First play of the danged game
I've referenced this play a couple of times because it's just so rare to have a game start like this. The lineup cards go down, the first pitch is thrown, and then there's an immediate reminder that Crawford is one of the very best shortstops in the game.
A.J. Pollock is fast, too. He was out by this much.
That's a lot! Also, this feels like a good spot to note that I'm looking forward to hating A.J. Pollock for a long time. Part of it is because he's good for a division rival. Part of it is that A.J. P. thing.
One of the most likeable players in sports watches one of the most unlikeable players in sports get robbed
Not the catchiest title, but certainly the most important. According to Inside Edge Scouting, this was one of the most difficult plays Crawford made all year. I believe them.
Deep, deep, deep in the hole
Remember that part up there about Marte, about how it would have looked more impressive if Yadier Molina were running? Here's the opposite of that, because I'm thinking Crawford could have got Marte on this play, but it's somehow less impressive because Wilson Ramos and his catcher legs are going up the line.
Don't fall into that trap. This is a brilliant play, one of the very best of the year. Crawford's wizardry has less to do with his diving stops and more to do with plays like this, where he fields the ball almost behind where the third baseman sets up, then turns and fires a strike while his momentum is taking him toward the foul line. My word.
The best play statistically
Here we go. I reached out to Jeff Sullivan, errand boy at FanGraphs, to ask which Crawford play was the most difficult according to Inside Edge Scouting, which ranks every play on a scale from "Impossible" to "Likely." This was the one described as "Remote," with a 1- to 10-percent chance of being converted. You can see it here, in red:
Kemp ran like he was towing a Volkswagen in second gear, but they're also considering the speed of the ball off the bat, where the fielder was positioned, and how far he had to go to get it. According to the lasers and the smart folks, this was the best of the bunch.
Brandon Crawford is a Gold Glove shortstop. He deserves it. Up there are just a few of the reasons why. Let us appreciate him.