Brandon Crawford deserves more love than he’s been getting

Giants vet now all-time leader in games played at shortstop for team

Brandon Crawford
Brandon Crawford
Photo: Getty Images

When the 2021 MLB All-Star Game polls opened on June 3, I filled out five ballots. I’ve voted at least once every day since. And every time, I voted for pretty much the same team with a few minor adjustments.

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“Alright. Tyler O’Neill probably deserves one vote. I guess I’ll vote for him once instead of Jesse Winker.”

“Jesus Aguilar should get a few. He’s only slightly behind Max Muncy.”

“Devers and Ramirez are so close. I guess I’ll split my votes on them.”

One position I never wavered on was shortstop for the National League. Every time I came to that section of the ballot, I voted for Fernando Tatis Jr. I didn’t even have to think about it. It became second nature — just “Shortstop? Well, that’s Tatis, obviously.” I may have blinked at the thought of Trea Turner, but it was never more than a drive-by thought while I scrolled to find Tatis’s name.

However, last night, I turned on the Giants-Rangers game and got an unexpected surprise. Sure, I knew about Buster Posey turning back the clock to hit .333 with a .988 OPS. I knew Brandon Belt was being activated from the IL. I knew the Giants were getting a lot of great performances out of their starters Gausman, Wood, Cueto, and DeSclafani, and I knew those were a big reason why the Giants have the best record in the National League. I also knew that Brandon Crawford would be taking the field that night as the Giants’ all-time leader in games played at shortstop.

There wasn’t much fanfare for Crawford’s achievement, which makes sense I guess. The game was in Texas after all. I’m sure the Giants’ 2008 fourth-round selection will get his much-deserved ceremony when the team returns to Oracle Park. But that incredible achievement aside, Brandon Crawford is also putting together the best offensive season of his career and being vastly overlooked for it.

Yes, B-Craw is a two-time All-Star, but if we’re being real, his 2018 bid was mainly due to a tremendously hot first half as well as the fact that Corey Seager was injured and Trevor Story was off to a slow start. Crawford ended that season with a .394 slugging percentage. His offense has never been the main draw though. The long-haired Adonis has been a mainstay at the 6-spot because of his ability with the glove. He’s won three Gold Gloves over the course of his career, and has accumulated an encycolpedia’s worth of web-gem plays all the while. That being said, his defense has dropped off in recent years. In 2019, Crawford finished with a defensive runs saved rating of -10. His range factor per nine innings was the lowest of his career, and he put up his second consecutive season with 16 errors. It looked like it was the end of the Crawford era in San Francisco. Sure, he’d probably play there until his contract ended, but there was no way the Giants were going to bring him back.

Then 2021 happened. Among qualified shortstops (Tatis has missed too many games to qualify), Crawford is first in OPS, first in weighted on-base average, first in weighted runs created-plus, and first in slugging percentage. He’s putting up career highs in every single offensive category aside from batting average, and that can be attributed to a string of bad luck as Crawford’s BABIP is just .284 — the lowest among qualified shortstops with at least a .740 OPS.

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Yet despite those numbers, we never see Crawford’s name among the game’s best shortstops anymore. Maybe it’s too small a sample size. Maybe it’s because he’s 34 years old. Maybe it’s because he had his time in the spotlight and now it’s time to let the next generation get the front seats. But when the 2021 All-Star Game happens, if I don’t see Crawford on the sideline for the National League, something is wrong.

I still believe Tatis deserves the starting spot. There’s no denying that. He’s been electric and has an OPS over 1.000 with 17 home runs and more stolen bases than anyone else in the National League. The reserve spot, however, should go to Crawford without a doubt. Trea Turner is the only other NL shortstop whose numbers come anywhere close.

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I’m ashamed to say it took me until last night to recognize Crawford’s fantastic season. Aside from breaking his franchise’s all-time record for games at shortstop, Crawford also blasted two home runs (bringing his season total up to 14 — second among shortstops) and had some great defensive plays including a nice backhand grab and throw to get Nate Lowe after he beat the shift. He’s the heart and soul of this Giants franchise and has been arguably the most valuable offensive player on the Giants roster thus far. So, if being the best player on the best team isn’t worthy of an All-Star nod, I don’t know what is.