The Giants are in the top-half of defensive teams in the National League this season. The metrics play out about how we expected -- stellar infield work, kinda okay outfield work, and a catcher to rule them all.
When it comes to individual players, though, Brandon Crawford stands alone. Dives alone. Turns the pivot alone. Or, by definition, with the help of someone else. Regardless, he's been the very best shortstop in baseball this year, and the very best defensive player in the National League according to several metrics. Mark Simon of ESPN did a great job breaking them down while naming Crawford their defensive player of the month.
Crawford had 13 "good fielding plays" (think Web Gem-caliber) and only two "defensive misplays and errors." His ratio of good plays to misplays and errors was 6.5-to-1 (best among shortstops who played at least half of their team's games). The average ratio for a shortstop during the month is 1-to-1.
That's unfathomable. The funny part is I had a bit in an April recap that I cut before publishing that was basically, "Hey, where did all the Brandon Crawford Web Gems go?" I ditched it because a) his numbers were telling me that I was a dummy, and b) I remembered his Gold Glove celebration post, in which there were several great plays, but nothing like, I don't know, Ozzie Smith catching a ball with his bare hand after it changed direction. Which is a ridiculous standard to expect.
It wasn't necessarily wrong, though! If you look at his Inside Edge numbers, you'll see that Crawford is absurdly consistent with the routine plays, but that he hasn't made a single play described as "unlikely," "remote," or "impossible."
Crawford continually makes the routine plays look effortless, and it's probably up to us to remember just how amazing that is. I think the urge to wonder about Web Gems was borne of a spoiled complacency that comes from watching one of the very best for five years. He's made 99.3 percent of the plays described as "routine," which is stellar. For comparison, here are some of the other shortstops in the NL West:
- Alexei Ramirez, 96.2%
- Nick Ahmed, 97.5
- Corey Seager, 96.8
- Trevor Story, 99.3
Zack Cozart is at a cool 100 percent (jeez, calm down, buddy), but otherwise you can see that Crawford is at or near the top of just about every defensive list you can come up with.
My favorite part about the ESPN article up there? This:
If there's any question as to how much ground Crawford covers, consider this stat. Crawford, Francisco Lindor and Eduardo Escobar are the only shortstops who have a positive range rating on balls hit in the shortstop-third base hole and balls hit up the middle (in other words, they're turning an above-average rate of outs on those balls). Most shortstops are good going one way or the other, but not both.
I remember Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Kent for years at second base, being great going to his backhand side, but sluggish going toward first. Crawford doesn't have that.
And, yes, I realize that by writing this, he's going to boot six balls in St. Louis. But ESPN started it. Yell at them. Until then, just remember that Brandon Crawford is just about the best shortstop we've ever watched, and we should probably celebrate that every month or so.