When I pitched Brady my initial set of ideas just to see if I could still blog about the San Francisco Giants — I had really, truly stopped writing since leaving this site — I had one on the list about Brandon Crawford’s career tail and what would presumably be his farewell season in 2023.
After that series in Colorado, though, I just want to talk about how cool it will be to see Brandon Crawford suit up again.
Still, I’m a realist. He will be 36 years old in 2023. And if there’s one sports tweet that haunts — and delights — me to this day, it’s this one:
You: "I'm only 35, I have my whole life ahead of me."— Troy Johnson (@_troyjohnson) September 27, 2021
Sports broadcaster: "Here comes the oldest player in the league. He's 32. A miracle."
Brandon Crawford’s days as a Gold Glove major league shortstop are over, but he’s still out there making plays! My heart grew two sizes watching him run around Coors Field this week, which is to say that it grew from a lump of coal to a smaller lump of coal.
BCraw ran a mile to make the catch pic.twitter.com/fko46FigNa— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 22, 2022
You’ll recall that the Giants will pay him $16 million next season. Recently, on the McCovey Chroncast — that’s the McCovey Chronicles podcast you should all be listening to! — I speculated that because things were going so poorly for him and the Giants this season that he might even announce his retirement, until I remembered that would deprive him and the Giants of a proper farewell season.
What a farewell season that could be! I don’t think the Giants will avoid, like, Trea Turner out of respect to Crawford’s position and contract (though we can be certain Trea Turner will avoid them), but if he plans to play in 2023, he’ll get some playing time. And Crawford has been one of the most surprising Giants this century. Over the last ten seasons (and excepting the pandemic year), he’s averaged over 500 PAs while playing a great shortstop.
An anchor. A rock. A position the Giants haven’t had to worry about, although maybe they will this offseason. But, if he plans to play in 2023, they’re still going to have him on the roster and he’s still going to play, and so rather than watch him be DFA’d or something, I’d like to lay out all the things he’ll need to get through the entire year and maybe even be pretty decent.
Sure, I don’t know what it takes to be a quality Major League Baseball player, or even a baseball player, or even a professional athlete, or any kind of athlete, BUT, I have been 36 before. Anyway, here’s the list:
Really the most important thing. The history of 36-year old shortstops is grim.
Thanks to Baseball Reference, I can tell you there have been thirty-nine (39) shortstops who played at least 90% of their age-36 games at shortstop. Only one of the seasons in the top 10 (by OPS+) happened this century:
Here are all the results from this century:
Crawford is following up his very best offensive season (141 OPS+ in 2021) with his third worst (83 OPS+). Crawford’s career OPS+ is 99, so you can see that even if he were to bounce back from this season to have a career average year in 2023, he’d still be pulling off an historic-for-his-age feat. His results from this season do not suggest that there’s even a little bitty teensy weensy chance of that happening.
Just some dire Savant offensive numbers and whether they’re the result of injuries or age or injuries plus age, age is definitely in there, and he’s not getting any younger.
And then there are the seemingly conflicting defensive numbers. I mean, we’ve already seen with our own eyes that he can still makes some plays, but according to SABR, whose Defensive Index number is a factor in the Gold Glove Award, Brandon Crawford is the worst shortstop in the National League. Oof, I say! Oof!
But as you can see with the Savant ratings, he’s in the 94th percentile of outs above average. FanGraphs has him at +8.8 in Defensive Runs Above Average. Sure, just about half as good as he was last season (+17.1), but not terrible! 7th-best NL shortstop, and 18th-best defender in baseball. Just by their number.
Still, he’s going to need the ball to bounce his way a little more often than usual to stave off Father Time and physical decline. The history of 36-year old shortstops and even 36-year old players is grim, but the history of luck proves that luck is a byproduct of preparation.
Not just weighted squats or even acupuncture or even yoga. I’m talking Pilates. I’m talking trampoline work. Rowing. Throwing different situations at your body (during the offseason, of course!) to test what’s already built up but also inspire your muscle memory. No reason for the body to be bored. Movement begets movement, and Crawford is playing a movement-heavy position.
Becoming more flexible as one ages is difficult, but not impossible, and all Crawford really needs to do is introduce one or two new concepts into his training regiment to see results.
PreserVision AREDS2 Eye Vitamins for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
My optometrist recommended these to me after he found out I was a sports blogger and my eye test said I was dangerously close to losing my vision unless I made some major changes. Age-related vision loss is no joke, and even if baseball players have above average vision, age and screen-induced eye strain are significant enough factors to hurt that.
Save your eyes save your career, Brandon!
These are just over the counter vitamins. They contain a lot of zinc, though, so make sure to take them (two a day) with a meal, otherwise you will get sick (lol me learning that the hard way). Also, and perhaps most importantly, make sure nothing in this — Ascorbic acid, dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate, gelatin, glycerin, zinc oxide, marigold flower extract, medium chain triglycerides, carmine, zeaxanthin§, cupric oxide, titanium dioxide — is on MLB’s banned substance list!
Crawford has a team nutritionist and plenty of money to eat well when he’s away from the team. This shouldn’t be a problem, but if he’s going to have one last truly great season, I think he’s going to have to mix up the diet just a little bit. Maybe cut out ice cream, just for the season. Maybe stick to hard liquors instead of beer. Black beans — a miracle!
I was in the best shape of my life from 33-37 and it wasn’t because I was thinner than I was before (lol and definitely since), it’s because I was taut. The quest for taut, however you want to get there, I think is the way to go. Round edges and middle infielders aren’t a great combination. If you need to be fleet of foot, it helps when your foot weighs less.
Also, floss your teeth at least every night, because flossing and heart health are connected.
Something to laugh at
With Brandon Belt almost certainly not coming back next season, that makes this suggestion especially difficult to navigate. There are few clowns alive on planet Earth right now that are better than Brandon Kyle Belt. Can’t dunk on Kapler, he’s the manager. The starting pitchers are too intense. It would be unfair to find any of the relievers funny, because relief pitchers are already so pitiable.
When Brandon Crawford learned that Buster Posey had become his boss, in a manner of speaking, the longtime Giants shortstop took out his phone and fired off a text to the club’s newest principal partner and executive board member.
Just so you know what you’re getting into, I have heard that owning a baseball team isn’t a moneymaking business.
There have been only 355 players in MLB history (if I’m using Play Index correctly) to have at least 400 plate appearances in their age-36 season. That feels like a generous number to pencil in Crawford for, but given his track record and unless the Giants do sign one of the free agent shortstops this offseason, still seems plausible.
Anyway, 93 had an OPS+ of 100 or greater. 21 had an OPS+ of 90-99. 44 players from this century, and 18 since 2010. Josh Donaldson and Carlos Santana are two players in 2022 enjoying their age-36 seasons as basically full-timers. Their OPS+s are 101 and 100, respectively.
Nothing in baseball can be considered a guarantee, and plans frequently get blown up by a ball hitting the base or an umpire missing a call or name your calamity. Brandon Crawford has been one of the most consistent Giants in the history of the franchise, and it will be weird when he’s gone, but he still has one more season, so let’s just hope it’s good.