Brandon Crawford wasn't supposed to be here. He hit for a career minor league line of .266/.331/.403, and he wasn't exactly young for any of his levels. He wasn't a non-prospect, but he his ceiling looked like a below-average #8 hitter In his first full minor league season, he struck out 132 times in 542 at-bats -- that would be 11th all-time on the San Francisco Giants single-season strikeout leaderboard. Unlike Bobby Bonds, Dave Kingman, Matt Williams, and Jeff Kent, though, Crawford didn't hit for power. Also, he put those strikeout numbers up between Class-A and Double-A, not the majors like those other players.
Brandon Crawford wasn't supposed to be here. And, lookie here, he hasn't gotten better.
Pfft. Told you. I told you Crawford wasn't going to ...
Uh, well, that's probably ...
Hey, he has gotten better every season. The average stays the same, but the patience increases incrementally. The power increases incrementally. We're used to him as an okay hitter, someone who can still deliver a timely hit without it feeling like Barry Zito's bunt RBI. When he ropes a double, it doesn't feel like something between luck and shoplifting. It's a normal hitter getting normal hits.
Brandon Crawford wasn't supposed to be here. Don't get me wrong, it's not like he's an especially great offensive shortstop, either. Baseball-Reference lets fans vote on hitters throughout baseball history, creating an imperfect (but interesting) ranking. Let's see where Crawford sits in the mind of baseball fans.
That's only half-damning with faint praise. We didn't realize how good Vizcaino could be at the time -- defense counts! -- and Vizcaino represented a specific appeal to the idea of "Catch the ball first; worry about hitting second" mindset that was so out of style in the early 2000s. It turns out that mindset was somewhere between prescient and common sense. Maybe Crawford is Vizcaino, and somewhere in his early 30s, he'll move from average to abominable with the bat. He'll pick up a couple games at first for no good reason, and then sail into that goodnight.
Or maybe Crawford will get a lot better. By my calculations, he'll have a .480 OBP by 2034! Keep at it!
Or maybe he'll keep getting incrementally better. That's more likely. He's been hitting more extra-base hits over the years. He's learning to take walks while hitting in front of the pitcher, yet still showing the willingness to swing outside the strike zone when it's appropriate. The ceiling doesn't have to stop at Vizcaino. Considering that Crawford has already passed Vizcaino's career WAR, it's likely that he already shattered that ceiling a year or two ago, and we know we don't have to settle for all-glove, no-hit. We can look forward to all-glove, some-hit.
What I predicted last year:
Brandon Crawford, 2014 projection AB: 534 AVG: .243 OBP: .317 SLG: .370 HR: 10 SB: 1 CS: 2
And what he actually did:
Brandon Crawford AB: 564 AVG: .246 OBP: .324 SLG: .389 HR: 10 SB: 5 CS: 3
The dingers showed up, but so did the triples. When he sends one into Triples Alley, it sure looks like one of the prettiest swings in baseball.
Left-handed swings will do that for you. He has an occasionally great opposite-field swing, too. Every so often, you can see why he was a possible top-10 pick a couple years before he was drafted. The tools aren't omnipresent and in your face, but they sure do exist.
That doesn't mean he'll get better. I just like triples. I like videos of triples. That video had a triple and Andres Torres.
So we have to split into three camps: Team Static, Team Dynamic, and Team Doom.
Team Static believes that we've seen the best of Crawford, but that we'll continue to see it for a year or three. He'll hit something close to the league average, which is just dandy. He's not the employee you have to micromanage. He shows up early, does his thing, punches his time card, stays a few minutes late, helps someone else with a project, and leaves quietly.
Team Dynamic wants a couple more dingers, sure, but it's the doubles that can turn Crawford into something more. He hit 20 last year (with 10 triples, mind you). A partial list of players who have hit more doubles in a single season with the Giants: Deivi Cruz, Jose Castillo, Mike Matheny, Bill Mueller, Omar Vizquel, Fred Lewis, Marco Scutaro, and Freddy Sanchez. Oh, and Brandon Crawford. He doesn't have to threaten Jeff Kent's 49 doubles in 2001 to increase his value substantially. Just a few more. And keep those triples where they are.
Team Doom is dead inside.
How can you watch that and be on Team Doom? Crawford's gonna hit 30 dingerssssss ...
Or not. I'm on Team Static, and that's not a bad place to be. Crawford will hit, just a bit, and he'll field, hopefully without the odd fielding funk.
Defense: Heck yes