Monday, June 20, 2011

Brandon Crawford Can Stick in the Majors

Brandon Crawford has been a very pleasant surprise in a cloud of misery this season and, from his short stint in the majors, I have a pretty good feeling that he can be a productive Major Leaguer.

You may say that sure he can field well, but his bat can't play at this level yet. You may see that he looks over matched and that his line of .197/.269 .296 proves that. Well, to that, I say lets dig a little deeper before jumping to conclusions.

The first thing I want to look at is his strikeout and walk rates. These are things that stabilize fairly quickly among batting statistics. Crawford hasn't quite accumulated enough plate appearances to make these reliable predictors of his future talent but they do give us a glimpse of what might be his underlying talent.

As we can see from the graph, Crawford's strikeouts have stabilized at just under 15%. This is better than the numbers that he posted in the minors, so there is still the possibility that this goes up significantly but as of right now, he seems to have the ability to make consistent contact with Major League pitching.

The walk rate hasn't had the same stabilization and this takes about 200 PA to start to become reliable, so this has a lot more uncertainty surrounding it. However, the early results are positive. If he can maintain a walk rate near 10% while keeping the strikeouts around 15%, I think just about everyone will be happy. This is a thing that we will want to keep an eye on going forward.

The next thing to take a look at is what he's doing with balls that he puts in play. Currently, only 21.7% of his balls in play are falling for hits, while the league average is close to 30%. Is this just bad luck or a sign that he can't make it?

If we look at his batted ball data, I am inclined to say that it's bad luck and if he keeps up the same batted ball profile, he will be in good shape. The table below shows his batting average on balls in play (BABiP) and the expected result for each:


Looking at this, we see that he is somewhat unlucky with the ground balls getting one less hit than expected and that he might be a touch lucky with his fly balls but not enough to effect the expected hit total. The big deviation is in his line drives. Here, his average is nearly half what would be expected, which could potentially mean five additional hits.

When we look at his hitting profile, we expect not a hitter with a below average BABiP but one that would be slightly above average. If we used his xBABiP to calculate his triple slash line, it improves to .296/.359/.408, which would be excellent for a glove first shortstop.

After looking deeper into things, I definitely think Crawford should continue to be the Giants everyday shortstop. He needs to get the reps until it's shown that he can't handle it or there is a better option and, with his plus fielding, that guy better be able to hit.

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