The San Francisco Giants performed at an unacceptably poor level defensively in 2013, igniting a downward spiral that resulted in their first losing season since 2008. Brandon Crawford was a major contributing factor of the Giants’ 13th-ranked defense in the NL, committing 15 errors.
Crawford often showcases defensive mastery, gliding across the infield dirt to make spectacular plays at shortstop. His web gem highlight reel doesn’t register on the stat sheet, though. Crawford owns a mediocre .972 fielding percentage in three seasons at the big league level. He needs to greatly improve upon that figure if the Giants are going to be substantially better in 2014.
As the eighth-place hitter, the Giants don’t expect Crawford to rack up big numbers at the plate. His .241 career batting average isn’t sufficient enough to justify statistically poor defensive efforts, though. Crawford had seemingly turned the corner offensively at the All-Star Break last season. He posted respectable first-half numbers at the bottom of the Giants’ lineup, recording a .721 OPS with 85 hits and 30 RBIs.
His numbers dipped significantly in the second half in part because of a hand injury that forced discomfort at the plate. Crawford managed a dismal .209 batting average in 60 games after the break. His inefficiency was masked by the Giants’ team-wide struggles, but the 27-year-old shortstop needs to produce at a higher level in 2014 for his team to contend.
The Giants are a team mostly composed of role players. In 2012, each player on the 25-man roster executed their individual responsibilities at a highly efficient level, resulting in a World Series title. Crawford wasn’t a big part of that from a statistical standpoint, but seemingly always came up with a big hit or a key defensive play when absolutely needed.
He’s a gritty player that has the ability to play clutch baseball, but needs to develop greater consistency in order to become a valuable player for the Giants. He owns a microscopic .170 career batting average with two outs and RISP. That figure is unacceptable in the eight-hole. Crawford frequently forces runs off the board in front of the pitcher’s spot. His glaring lack of ability to deliver a big hit on a regular basis reduces the Giants’ overall run production, and allows opposing pitchers to face their counterparts to start the next inning.
Crawford must become more productive for the Giants in 2014. If he fails to post significantly better numbers at the plate and on the field this season, the Giants will be in the market for a new shortstop.