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Brandon Crawford is still chock full of doubles and defensive highlights

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He’ll be one of the most watchable Giants in more ways than one.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at San Francisco Giants Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Crawford’s 2018 was yet another instance of what could have been. After getting off to an absolutely abysmal start in which he had a .189 average on May 1, Crawford put together the best two months of his career. From May 1 to June 30, Crawford slashed .372/.436/.602 across 218 plate appearances. That’s a 1.038 OPS and a 178 wRC+. Even with a lost April, Crawford was having an MVP season.

Even though he hit like Mike Trout for two months of the seasons, the other months were atrocious enough to bring his overall numbers back to earth. Crawford ultimately would up with a very Crawfordesque slash line of .254/.325/.394. His career slash line is .252/.318/.395.

After June, Crawford finished up the year hitting .188/.269/.268 as he played through a knee injury. Crawford’s explanation was that he couldn’t drive off his back foot and he wasn’t hitting for power. The numbers bear that out as he completely stopped hitting for power while his strikeout and walk numbers remained consistent. His approach stayed the same, but the results weren’t there.

The above graph shows a 15-game rolling average of Crawford’s o-swing rates (how often he swung at pitches out of the strike zone) and z-swing rates (how often he swung at pitches in the strike zone) compared to his ISO (slugging minus batting average). Crawford more or less kept the same approach throughout the season but to wildly different results. If there’s one difference, perhaps you could say that Crawford was more successful when he was more aggressive in the strike zone, but really, the key for Crawford in 2019 is staying healthy.

It’s easy to look at a 32-year-old middle infielder with knee problems and think that he’s doomed, but I choose to believe that Crawford’s knee will be fine. Maybe that’s because I always think a player will come back from an injury without any problems no matter how recurring they are. (That reminds me: the Giants should have signed Brett Anderson.) Crawford will have another Crawfordesque year. He’ll just spread his hits around more evenly.

Having an excellent defender at shortstop who can hit for a .700 OPS is still valuable even in an era teeming with superstar shortstops. Crawford isn’t putting up 20 DRS in a season any more, but his defense is still great. Even if he doesn’t top leaderboards or win a gold glove, Crawford is still plenty capable of adding to his already impressive highlight reel. The Giants may not win a ton of games, but Crawford will still do things like this:

We’ll be grateful for Crawford’s aesthetics when the Giants are mathematically eliminated before the All-Star break.

Projection

PA: 575

AVG: .252

OBP: .323

SLG: .386

HR: 9

SB: 3

bWAR: 2.4

His power numbers will drop a bit, but the defense will still rule.

Traded?

No. The contenders are all happy with their shortstops, and Crawford has a full no-trade clause.