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Giants shortstops have not been good hitters

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It just makes Brandon Crawford that much more special

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Since moving to San Francisco, the Giants haven't had a ton of offense coming from their shortstops. Sure, there has been the occasional Sports Illustrated feature or World Series MVP, but overall, the position's been a black hole for hitting. Last year, of course, Brandon Crawford bucked the trend, but that was a rarity. From Fangraphs, here is every shortstop who's created at least an average number of runs (a quick wRC+ primer can be found here, if you would like one) in 300 plate appearances in one year for the San Francisco Giants:

Year Player wRC+
2001 Rich Aurilia 144
1972 Chris Speier 118
2015 Brandon Crawford 117
1967 Jim Davenport 115
2009 Juan Uribe 115
1975 Chris Speier 113
1987 Jose Uribe 103
2014 Brandon Crawford 103
2010 Juan Uribe 102
1958 Daryl Spencer 101
2000 Rich Aurilia 100

I know, I know, it's weird that you can't find Johnnie LeMaster anywhere. I've emailed Fangraphs to sort out this injustice.

Now, there are some problems with this list. Jose Uribe didn't clear that 300 PA threshold by very much (and would have almost certainly regressed with more playing time), and neither did Jim Davenport, who wasn't even a shortstop – he played 28 games at short in 1967, compared to 64 at third – and Juan Uribe in 2009 was more of a utility man than a true shortstop, and if I haven't confused you at least a little with multiple Uribes in the same run-on sentence then I'll be disappointed in myself.

But as a "close enough" kind of list, it's useful enough. And what the list tells us is that a shortstop who's at least an average hitter is an incredibly rare thing for the Giants to enjoy. How rare? These 11 names are out of 71 qualifiers. 71 guys who got a half season's worth of plate appearances and played enough shortstop that you could say "Yeah, he's a shortstop" without needing to immediately sprint to a confessional, and only 11 of them hit like an average major leaguer. That is a poor, poor record.

How does that record compare to other teams? Well, hey, here's another table of every team that's been around since 1958 and the number of shortstops they've had who fit those same criteria:

Team Seasons
Red Sox 27
Yankees 24
Reds 23
Tigers 22
Orioles 21
Braves 18
Cardinals 17
Indians 17
A's 15
Dodgers 14
Twins 14
Pirates 12
Cubs 11
Giants 11
Phillies 10
White Sox 9

The Giants are tied for 13th out of 16 teams, and there are three players (Barry Larkin, Cal Ripken Jr, and Derek Jeter) who would beat the Giants on this list by themselves, and that's without even including players who ever switched teams or played for expansion teams. Obviously, they were all great, Hall of Fame caliber players, but in 20 years each of them outperformed an entire team (multiple teams, actually) for almost 60.

Historically speaking, Giants shortstops are bad hitters, is what I'm getting at. I hope I haven't been too subtle.

All of this just makes Brandon Crawford's 2015 that much more impressive. Not only did he hit enough to win a Silver Slugger, but he also hit enough to win a Gold Glove. It was the third best offensive season by a shortstop in San Francisco history, so it's like he looked tradition right in the eye and said "Shove off."

Now, tradition might come back swinging, because it's kinda a dick that way. It's possible that Crawford's power last year was a fluke, just as it's possible that he's going to keep getting better. He sure hit a lot of balls hard last year, though he also hit more of them on the ground than he had the year before. Strikeouts were down a little, walks were down a lot, and there's no way to tell what any of that means for the future.

Maybe Brandon Crawford can start a new shortstop tradition. Maybe not. Either way, he did a remarkable, historically notable thing last year, and after lots of consideration, I've concluded that was good.