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The highs and lows of Brandon Crawford’s All Star/average season

Crawford was among the hottest hitters in the game at one point, earning himself a starting appearance in the All Star Game. After that...not so much.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

STAT LINE: 2.6 WAR, 594 PAs, .254/.325/.394, 14 HRs, 54 RBI

Role on the 2018 team

Brandon Crawford was the only player to represent San Francisco in the 2018 All Star Game, and it wasn’t even just because they had to have one! He was voted in as a starter, based on his scorching hot start to the summer.

This was thanks in part to the keen eyes of two of his teammates, Pablo Sandoval and Gregor Blanco, who noticed in April that a struggling Crawford wasn’t getting his hands up as high as he used to in his swing. Crawford adjusted and couldn’t be stopped for most of the next two months.

He entered the month of May with a batting average of .191, by June 1st, he had raised it to .311. In 102 at-bats in the month of May, Crawford had four home runs, 42 hits, 21 RBI, nine doubles and was just about the hottest hitter in the game.

He arguably peaked on June 10th, in a four-hit game (including two doubles, a home run, and two RBI) against the Nationals, where he raised his averages to a season-high .338/.385/.536 before he slowly started to come back down to earth. He struggled in the lead-up to the All Star Game and never really got going again, hitting .188/.269/.268 for the second half.

While the injuries (and subsequent surgeries) with Buster Posey and Brandon Belt made bigger news, Crawford’s slow decline was kind of written off as regression to his average. However, like his fellow Brandon, Crawford was suffering from knee pain as well, though few knew it at the time.

Crawford discusses it in his September 13th blog post, saying:

I’ll be happy to get my back to 100 percent during the off-season. It started just before the All-Star break. I figured we’d work on it and it’d go away in a few days like most aches and pains do. It didn’t. It’s not a big injury, and I’m still in the lineup, but it affects my hitting. I put so much weight on my back (left) leg so I can explode off it. This is the change I made in my batting approach that boosted my power and average the last few years. My knee takes all that weight while it’s also torqueing, a combination of motions that has taken its toll. When something begins to hurt, your body tries to protect it. So I find myself drifting forward as I load up on my swing to ease the weight on the leg, which I’m not as explosive and not hitting pitches hitting pitches I’d usually hit.

In many ways, Crawford was the one constant of this season, regardless of his highs and lows. He played the most games with the team. (Gorkys Hernández comes in second, which almost tells you everything you need to know about the 2018 Giants, but I digress.) Crawford, despite his aches and pains and struggles, played 151 of 162 games. Aside from normal rest, he missed time only for the birth of his fourth child in June.

Role on the 2019 team

Starting shortstop. The Giants have made it pretty clear that Crawford was one of the untouchables on the team this year, he has a no-trade clause and is signed through 2021. So he’s unlikely to be going anywhere. Even if he is possibly in the declining years of his offensive performance, he’s continuously a candidate for the Gold Glove Award for his defense (even if his winning streak ended this season), and that should be the case for at least the next couple of seasons, barring injury.

That said, Farhan Zaidi is now in the picture and has said that nothing is really off the table, so I guess stranger things have happened. But I don’t see him not being part of the plan for 2019 when all is settled.

Grade: A-

Though Crawford’s scorching hot summer was one of the few highlights of a cruddy season, he ended the season with just about average numbers for his career. And in any other year, I probably would have gone lower here, but when we’re grading on a curve befitting the 2018 San Francisco Giants, he gets a nice boost from having some of the best numbers on the team (among those with comparable games played).

More importantly, he survived a season that seemed determine to eat all of the players we love. So he gets extra points for that as well.