Brandon Crawford is known around the league as being defensively very strong, but most people think that he can’t hit and will forever be an eighth-place hitter. The league needs to take notice of the amazing season that Crawford has had so far though. He is hitting .291 with 5 home runs, 14 RBI’s, a .354 OBP, and a .547 slugging percentage. As of April 28th, Crawford has the second highest batting average on the Giants, has hit the most home runs, is tied for second in RBI’s, is second in OBP, and first in slugging percentage.
Crawford is really starting to mature as a hitter. First of all, he has shown that he has power to both sides of the field. On April 9th in a game against the Rockies, the Giants were down 6-2 in the bottom of the 6th inning when Crawford came up to the plate and a hit a 3-run opposite field home run to bring the Giants to within one run.
Second of all, Crawford has also shown his ability to hit home runs when there are runners on base. According to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area, Crawford has 12 career home runs, and half of those home runs were either three-run home runs (four) or grand slams (two). As a form of comparison, Baggarly also points out that Justin Upton, who has always been known to be a power hitter, has 12 home runs so far this season, but 11 of those are solo home runs. Crawford has started to show his ability to get timely hits and hits with runners on base.
Crawford’s newfound offensive success can be credited to two things. First, Crawford has changed the mechanics of his swing slightly. With the help of former Fresno Grizzlies manager and current organizational hitting coordinator for the Giants Steve Decker, Crawford made the adjustment to stand taller at the plate, which raised his hands higher and allowed his front shoulder to stay more stationary.
“It was a simpler and shorter approach,” Crawford said. “It allowed me to have a flatter swing, so I got more backspin, which meant the ball had more of an upward trajectory.”
Second, Crawford has improved his approach with two strikes. His new approach is simply to not have a different approach with two strikes. Crawford took some advice from Buster Posey, who hit .261 with two strikes last season, which was the fourth best average in the league.
“I’m not really changing my approach,” Crawford said, via CSNBA. “I try to stay up the middle like I pretty much always did and I’m not worrying so much about striking out like I did in the past. I’m just taking a simpler approach.”
These two things have definitely caused Crawford to be more confident in his approach and to be more relaxed at the plate.
In addition to his offensive prowess this season, Crawford is continuing to amaze with his stellar defense. Crawford has committed three errors and has a .969 fielding percentage so far on the season. Those stats don’t show how many incredible, tough plays Crawford has converted, though. The Giants organization knew how effective Crawford could be on defense from his amazing trick plays in the minor leagues. Now that he’s the everyday starting shortstop for the Giants, Crawford continues to amaze.
Crawford has quick reflexes and good instincts, which allows him to be aware if any of his fellow infielders need help. His quickness also allows him to turn a lot of double plays. Crawford is also strong at running both to his right and to his left, and the accuracy of his throws are also outstanding for such a young shortstop. He can make a throw from his knees, off of a jump, off of one foot, or after a spin and make it look like a routine throw.
Brandon Crawford has been the most consistent player for the Giants, offensively and defensively, so far this season. The 2013 season is only Crawford’s second full season (third season overall) in the majors, and the Giants organization and the fans must be extremely excited to see his growth and development. It is still very early in the season, but if Crawford can keep hitting consistently, he could provide yet another offensive threat to the Giants lineup, which might force manager Bruce Bochy to move Crawford to a higher spot in the lineup, like sixth or seventh. If Crawford did hit in a higher spot, he could take some pressure off of Posey or Pence in potential RBI situations with his timely hitting. Defensively, Crawford is arguably one of the best shortstops in the league and will hopefully win a Gold Glove this season. The Giants can rely on Sandoval and Posey for consistency. For now at least, they can rely on Crawford too.