San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford can play defense. His bat is coming around too.
Crawford is slashing .294/.359/.439 with five home runs and a .798 OPS. Nothing special, sure, but Crawford’s offensive production has taken leaps forward this year. By comparison, he slashed .248/.304/.349 with a .653 OPS in 2012.
The improvement is noticeable, and it looks sustainable. His BABIP (.337) is a bit higher than his 2012 mark of .307. The only caveat would be the fact that he’s actually hitting less line drives and more ground balls this year than he did last year, which could eventually lead to a regression.
The only area where Crawfrord will definitely regress is in the power department, where his 10.9 HR/FB rate is significantly higher than his 2012 mark of 3.9 percent.
But that’s just the lowdown on Crawford individually, and that’s just the thing. What he’s doing is drawing a few whispers of a very coveted question: Is “insert player here” an All-Star?
Well, Crawford does deserve to be in the conversation.
Anytime the All-Star game the voting process is discussed, the relentless Giants fans have to be mentioned. Their rabidness could skew the landscape of the voting outlook, which could ultimately send Crawford to the game as a starter.
Giants fans have some work to do, though. Troy Tulowitzki holds a sizable lead on Crawford in the voting department, per MLB’s latest release, and deservedly so. He leads all shortstop in pretty much every statistical category you’ll find, most notably WAR (3.9), OPS (1.048) and wOBA (Weighted On-Base Percentage). Dial up any stat, and he’ll top the list. Heck, he even leads NL shortstops on defense, sporting a 6.2 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).
Even if you take the shortstop filter out, he’s still in the top 5 in most categories. So, not only is Tulowitzki the barometer for shortstops, but he’s, well, an MVP candidate. At the very least, he should claim a starting role. It’d be criminal if Bruce Bochy had to pick him.
Wait, there’s a catch: the Rockies placed Tulowitzki on the 15-day DL on Friday with a broken rib. Multiple reports confirm that he could be out for up to six weeks, which makes sense because the torque involved in swinging a bat certainly requires a healthy core.
Six weeks would put Tulowitzki’s return well past the All-Star game, which falls on July 16. Four weeks, though, would be calling it close. The question then would ultimately hinge on his readiness. Would he want to risk aggravating his rib just for an exhibition game? Probably not. The Rockies would probably concur.
After Tulowitzki, things get a bit foggy. Milwaukee’s Jean Segura is hitting .336 with a .909 OPS. Everth Cabrera is hitting .295 with a .783 OPS and 30 stolen bases, which leads baseball. And Ian Desmond has a 1.086 OPS in June after compiling a .643 OPS in May.
Statistically, the starter should be Segura. He leads all shortstops in home runs (not including Tulowitzki) and OPS. Next in line would be Desmond, who has an ISO (Isolated Power) of .188, which falls just 14 points shy of Segura–again, I’m not including Tulowitzki. To clarify, ISO measures a player’s sheer power.
Let’s call Desmond and Segura locks because they hit for a bit more power than Crawford (.145 ISO) and Cabrera (.116) with similar averages and better batting averages.
How many spots are left?
Well, in 2012, the NL team carried three shortstops, including the starter. So outside of our two locks, the race for that final spot would be between Crawford and Cabrera, barring the emergence of another candidate.
Cabrera does have a significant edge in the stolen base department, but Bruce Bochy, San Francisco’s manager, will manage the NL All-Star team. Yeah, I’m hinting at the obvious: if Crawford and Cabrera are about even come July, Bochy will choose his guy regardless of the stolen base disparity.
When asked about Hunter Pence’s All-Star chances, this is what Bochy said (via Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area):
Well, he should be up there,” Bochy said. “I mean, he’s having a great year. It’s not just the power but the clutch hits and the stolen bases.
Fortunately, I do have some say.
Notice the final line. Sure, he’s talking about Pence, but that rule probably applies to anyone on his team. He showed his willingness to pick his players in 2011, when five Giants (four pitchers) occupied a spot on the NL team. And if Bochy continues those habits, there’s a good chance Brandon Crawford will be in the Big Apple come July 16.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs and MLB.com