Brandon Crawford is a Building Block for the San Francisco Giants



Brandon Crawford

did not make an error on this play,

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Crawford has been on the receiving end of some verbal attacks as of late. Fans can’t cope with a middle infielder that hits .225 with 8 home runs and 48 RBI. Oh wait, yes they can, but his name is Brandon Hicks, and he only hit .162 with 22 RBI.

Fans are enamored with offense these days. Since Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada began hitting with some major pop in the late 90’s/early 2000s, fans now think that every position should produce 100 RBI. During interleague play, there was even a buzz that Madison Bumgarner should be the DH because he has 2 home runs this season. Never mind the risk of injury, or his pitching routine or any of that.

But I digress. The aforementioned transformative players are typically few and far between. In this instance, it was like a lightening strike. Oh, and steroids in the cases of A-Rod and Tejada. This type of production from middle infielders is not the norm, and we are now regressing back to the mean (that’s math slang for getting back to normal).

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Brandon Crawford is not an offensive juggernaut, nor should he be presumed to be one. Crawford and his .225 average were responsible for the Giants sending Tuesday night’s game against the White Sox into extras. It’s not his fault that the team didn’t win that one.

In Sunday’s victory, Crawford was responsible for another 2 RBI, giving him 3 on the week. That’s more than Joe Panik (2, .421) , Hunter Pence (2, .182) , Pablo Sandoval (0, .227) and Buster Posey (1, .261). The first digit is how many RBI that player had last week, followed by their average for the week.

The Giants are not an offensive team. They have been built upon pitching and defense. They rely on timely hitting. Even with his .133 batting average a week ago, Brandon Crawford delivered the big hit.

Crawford’s offense is only half of the argument. The other half has been his declining defensive play.

2012 was Brandon Crawford’s best defensive season right? We can all agree on that? He had a dWAR of 2.0 (his best in any season) and a fielding percentage of .970 (97%).

He also committed 18 errors that season. While he has 17 thus far in 2014, it’s safe to say that the total he commits won’t be too far away from this number.

While 2014 has not been his best defensive effort, it’s still among the best in baseball at the position. Looking at Brandon Crawford’s range factor (RF measures how many successful defensive plays a player makes as opposed to fielding percentage, which simply measures a player’s ability to avoid errors) he sits at a 4.33, which is just behind Andrelton Simmons (4.36) and 7th overall. You know Simmons–he’s the guy on all of the defensive highlights.

The best RF (at short) in baseball belongs at to Jean Segura at 4.73, and even he has made a slew of errors (13 compared to Crawford’s 17).

Pablo Sandoval is applauded for his defense. His range factor is 2.82. Among third basemen, this ranks 4th. Yet the 3 guys above him Josh Donaldson (20 errors), Nolan Arenado (12) and Pedro Alvarez (25) all have more errors than him. Minus Alvarez, the other 2 also have a higher Defensive Wins Above Replacement as well.

This is to say that errors are not the be all, end all.

What the Giants have right now is Stephen Drew. Only better. Not the current incarnation, where he waits half of the season to get paid less money and then underperforms, but the Drew that averaged a .273 batting average, 12 home runs and 50 RBI in his first 3 seasons. “But Jason, Crawford’s numbers aren’t that good! Idiot.” True, but Drew’s defense isn’t as good as Crawford’s either. Drew had a dWAR of 0.4, 0.6 and 0.5 in his first 3 seasons. B-Craw has earned a 0.6, 2.0, 0.9 and 0.4 (so far) in his 4 seasons. Call it a wash.

Call it speculation if you will, but not having stability on the other side of the bag has to hurt a little of Crawford’s production. On a ball up the middle, it’s essential to know how the other player will react. The same goes for turning a double play. With the rotating door that has been Brandon Hicks, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, Jaoquin Arias, Dan Uggla, Tony Abreu and Ehire Adrianza I can assume that it’s hard to build a rapport with a player when you don’t know who’ll be there on any given day. Having anything else on your mind at the plate also affects a player’s hitting. If the Giants fix second base they “fix” Brandon Crawford.

So what if Brandon Crawford isn’t hitting .248 like he has the past two seasons? It’s a down year. Those happen. You know who else isn’t hitting like they usually do? Posey. He’s also worth a lot more money ($12.5 M/season) which could limit the team financially through 2022. That contract has the potential to hurt the Giants’ chances for much longer than Brandon’s at $560 K this season, and marginal increase in salary through his arbitration years.

If the Giants don’t want to sign B-Craw long-term, there are plenty of teams that will take him off your hands. Defense is a building block for a Championship team, therefore Brandon Crawford is a building block moving forward.