Brandon Crawford Opens Things Up

The latest edition of Penning Bull hit subscribers’ inboxes this morning. It’s about Brandon Crawford’s stellar offensive season to date, and whether it’s sustainable. Here’s an excerpt:

Crawford, however, has been crucial for the Giants all year. He’s hitting .317/.368/.496, good for a 133 wRC+, to go along with his usual above-average defensive work. At 31, he’s no longer the best defensive shortstop in the National League, but he’s matured into the kind of hitter that could make him similarly valuable.

There’s bound to be some temptation, though, to dismiss this improvement as a mirage. After all, Crawford has walked only at his customary rate, about seven percent of the time. He’s whiffing about as often as usual, and just a hair less than the league as a whole. He’s hitting for much more pop than usual, and the plate discipline adjustments he has made—less contact, especially outside the zone, as he grooves his swing for power, but more aggressiveness within the zone—are consistent with that kind of improvement. Much of the overall improvement is driven, though, by a .374 BABIP that is in line neither with his profile (left-handed, average speed) nor with his track record. The baseline expectation, here, is for him to regress.

I’m not sure that it’s that simple. Crawford is using the opposite field more this year. In that way, he’s using the entire field better. It’s not just lazy fly balls to left, either. On a per-plate appearance basis, Crawford has more batted balls classified as Flares & Burners to the opposite field than any other qualified hitter in baseball: 29 of them, in 272 plate appearances through Saturday. Twenty-four of those have gone for hits, and of those, seven have been doubles.

If you’re interested and want to read more, and would like to get future editions yourself, please click the ‘Buy Now’ button on the righthand side (or bottom, for mobile readers) of your page.

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