Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brandon Crawford is Better than his Numbers Suggest

Call me crazy but I think that Brandon Crawford can hit like a league average shortstop this year.

You may be thinking that I have lost my marbles, how can I say that a guy who is hitting .199/ .289/ .277 with a .252 wOBA and a 54 wRC+ can be a league average hitter.

Well gather around skeptics and I will enlighten you.

The story is roughly the same as the one that I laid out a month ago. Crawford has maintained an excellent approach at the plate while getting unlucky with the results of his balls in play.

The most encouraging sign for the future is that even with an additional 80 PA his walk and strikeout rates are roughly the same as when we looked at them back in June. (Walk rate: 9% in June and 11.3% currently, strikeout rate 12.8% in June and 13.8% currently.)

With 160 plate appearances in the Major Leagues the fluke factor to these numbers has fallen quite a bit and this is a very encouraging sign.

What hasn't worked out as well as expected but leaves me optimistic for the future is the rate at the balls Crawford hits into play land for hits. Currently only 22.2% of his balls in play are falling for hits compared to league average of around 30%. As an athletic left handed hitter who uses the whole field there is little reason to suspect that he should continue to be this far below league average.

When you look at a more granular level of the different batted ball types he is having serious bad luck with his line drives. Currently only 50% of his line drives have landed for hits compared to an expected 72% landing for hits. The line drives finding gloves have not only sapped his batting average numbers but also his power numbers as these are the hits most likely to go for extra bases.

If we were to normalize his batting average on balls in play to league average his batting line would improve to .248/ .331/ .333 which translates to a .315 wOBA which is about 5% better than the current league average for National League shortstops.

Brandon Crawford needs to keep getting reps at shortstop to give the Giants a chance to see what they have. I think that if he is given the time the bad luck will eventually turn and we can see a hitter with plus defense and a bat that won't be a total embarrassment to the team.

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