Shortstop having All-Star-caliber season, despite missing out on the roster
By Justin Wise
SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford's presence in the infield has certainly made an impact on Jeff Samardzija this season. After pitching 7 1/3 efficient innings in the team's 6-5 loss Saturday at Arizona, the first-year Giant told reporters it was an "honor" to play alongside him.
The reason was that Crawford had done what he's made a habit of doing in a Giants uniform over the past few seasons. He rarely let a sharply hit ground ball get through the infield and was responsible for eight assists while San Francisco clung to a two-run lead.
"It sounds so Plain Jane, but it's so amazing what he does every day," Samardzija said.
The numbers support Samardzija's assessment. Crawford, the 2015 National League Gold Glove Award winner, ranks first in defensive runs saved among shortstops with 17 and has the highest Defensive WAR (2.3) in the Majors, according to Baseball Reference, this season. In addition, he's seemed to make every defensive stop look routine.
"Everything looks easy," said Giants third baseman Ruben Tejada, who has spent the majority of his career playing shortstop. "[Crawford makes] unbelievable plays."
But it's not just Crawford's glove that has helped San Francisco jump out to a six-game lead in the NL West. In the batter's box, he's driven in a team-leading 55 RBIs and ranks first among shortstops in that category. Normally batting fifth behind Brandon Belt and Buster Posey, Crawford is on pace for a career high in RBIs.
"You look at what he's done with the bat," manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday before the Giants' 5-1 win over the Rockies, a game in which Crawford drove in two runs. "He's a big RBI guy for us."
It is why when adding Crawford's offensive and defensive output together, it's been especially difficult for those inside San Francisco's organization to comprehend how he was left off the NL All-Star roster Tuesday. The Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell, winner of the fan vote, and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager, winner of the player vote, will represent the Senior Circuit at shortstop on Tuesday.
"It sucks not to see Craw go in," said Belt, who is one of five NL candidates in the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote. "He's probably just as deserving as anybody else who made the team."
It didn't come as a shock to Crawford. He was prepared for the outcome, considering Russell led the fan vote by about 300,000 votes when the votes were last tallied. As for the player vote, that didn't surprise Crawford either.
"That's not surprising at all, I voted for [Russell]," said Crawford. "He's having a great first half."
Seager has enjoyed a breakout year in his first full season with the Dodgers, entering Thursday batting .304 with 41 RBIs and 17 home runs. However, Crawford has also established himself as one of the best shortstops in the game, and the consensus inside the Giants' clubhouse is that he was overlooked this year.
"I don't think [Crawford] gets enough attention," said Bochy. "He's so gifted defensively, he's as good as anyone in the game at short."
Bochy added that Crawford being left off the All-Star roster might be a product of him playing on the West Coast. The sixth-year Giant also notes, "The fan voting is the way it is, there's nothing you can do about that."
Ultimately though, Crawford's main goal coming into 2016 wasn't to make an All-Star team, and he's content with where he is at this point in the season. He's continued to show his wide range in the field at short, while consistently growing as a hitter. And while Bochy says he can't point to one individual who has been San Francisco's most valuable asset midway through the season, Crawford has clearly proved to be an indispensable piece given the influx of players on the disabled list.
"I feel good," said Crawford, who is batting .418 in his last 55 at-bats with runners in scoring position. "I'm hitting the ball well for the most part, and that's the goal. If you hit the ball well, you have a lot better shot of getting a hit. That's what I'm focused on, and I'm doing all right with that so far."
Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.