San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford is in the midst of a disappointing 2019 season.
Since the 2012 season, Brandon Crawford has been a staple at the shortstop position for the San Francisco Giants. Not only has he struggled with the bat, but his glove has also taken a noticeable step back as well.
On the year, Crawford has posted a .228/.300/.356 line for a 74 OPS+ and he now has an 87 OPS+ over the past three seasons.
An All-Star in 2018 when he posted an .825 OPS during the first half, his production cratered after the break to the tune of a .543 OPS the rest of the way.
We’re no longer talking about a small sample size or a slow start. This has become a troubling trend. Over his last 551 plate appearances spanning 145 games, he has a .224/.296/.346 batting line.
At 32 years old, there is no guarantee that the offensive ability he showed in prior seasons will return.
In addition to those struggles, Crawford’s defense has been good, but not great.
The eye test has seen him commit 14 errors this season, which puts him only seven errors behind his career-high of 21 in 2014. Though errors are generally not a good indicator of defensive ability, they do reflect what is easily seen on the field.
The defensive metrics have a similar opinion about his defense. With zero Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a -2.4 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), it is not as if he has become a defensive liability overnight. He’s still good with the glove.
Still, these numbers suggest that Crawford is no longer the defensive wizard who won three Gold Glove awards earlier in his career.
Considering those struggles, it will be interesting to see how the Giants handle Crawford’s workload once rosters expand in September.
If they face a left-handed pitcher, will Crawford sit in favor of one of those right-handed bats? They could effectively use a platoon at the shortstop position going forward.
On paper, setting the lineup to better leverage platoon matchups makes sense. Sitting left-handed hitters when the team faces left-handed pitchers or vice versa is what many teams currently do.
However, Crawford’s situation is a bit more complicated.
The 32-year-old is not really a player who would benefit from being platooned. In 2019, he has struggled regardless of which hand the pitcher is throwing with. He has a .219 average and .660 OPS against right-handed pitching, compared to a .250 average and .646 OPS against lefties.
He’s had similar splits throughout his career with a .712 OPS against righties and a .696 OPS against southpaws. Without any sort of noticeable platoon split, the Giants would not gain any real advantage by platooning Crawford.
With two years remaining on his contract and a full no-trade clause, there is little chance the Giants will find a way to unload his contract, so this situation stretches beyond this September.
The Giants will need to address his declining performance sooner rather than later. Team president Farhan Zaidi’s offseason strategy should focus on getting more production out of the shortstop position.
Such a strategy could involve adding a player that enables the Giants to better manage Crawford’s workload, or it could be as simple as increasing Donovan Solano’s usage at shortstop.
Regardless, how the San Francisco Giants adjust Brandon Crawford’s usage in September could provide some clues into the team’s plans going forward.