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Is it time to be concerned about SF Giants longtime shortstop Brandon Crawford

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies
San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies / Harrison Barden/Colorado Rockies/GettyImages
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It would have been tough to expect longtime SF Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford to produce at a level anywhere like he did in 2021. The 35-year-old finished fourth in MVP voting while earning an NL All-Star nod and taking home the Gold Glove award at shortstop.

Crawford has struggled badly in 2022. With the first two months of the season in the books, is it time for the Giants to be concerned about the 12-year veteran?

Is it time to be concerned about SF Giants longtime shortstop Brandon Crawford

During the 2021 campaign, Crawford inked a two-year, $32 million extension that kept him in the Orange and Black through the 2023 season. That looked to be a bargain deal at the outset (and very well-deserved for Crawford).

However, that deal looks a little different after getting off to a slow start this season. The left-handed bat is slashing just .221/.310/.337 (60 OPS+) with four homers, 19 RBI, and 22 runs in 184 plate appearances before Wednesday night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

He added four more hitless at-bats in a 6-5 loss against Philadelphia while batting fifth in the lineup. At some point, he will likely slide further down in the lineup as LaMonte Wade Jr. and Brandon Belt return from their respective knee injuries.

The good news is that Crawford continues to control the strike zone adequately, posting an 8.7 percent walk rate against an 18.5 percent strikeout rate.

However, there are more negatives than there are positives. For starters, Crawford has registered a an 86.2-MPH average exit velocity, which is the lowest of his career. This is a sharp drop from the average exit velocities of 88.7 MPH and 88.8 MPH that he posted in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The margin for error in terms of impacting the ball is much lower when you are not consistently hitting it as hard. Not surprisingly, the 35-year-old's barrel rate has dropped from 11.5 percent in 2021 to 7.8 percent in 2022. His 2022 mark is still slightly better than his career mark of 6.3 percent, but it still remains concerning.

Crawford has an average launch angle of 13.7 degrees, which is within the range of how he has impacted the ball throughout his career. However, he has produced a ground ball in 45.3 percent of batted ball events. This is his highest mark since 2019 where he struggled to the tune of a 74 OPS+ in 560 plate appearances.

Lastly, the veteran shortstop is not doing enough damage against fastballs in 2022. He excelled against velocity last year, recording a .341 batting average and a .639 slugging percentage against it.

However, he has struggled to the tune of a .244 batting average against fastballs in 2022. This might be purely anecdotal, but there have been swings against hard-throwing pitchers where it looks like he is a tick behind.

There is still plenty of time for Crawford to turn it around. The bat may not be producing at a level that the longtime Giants shortstop might expect, but he continues to stay on the field while offering good defense.

In a lot of ways, he can still impact the Giants with his calm presence and veteran leadership. It may not be time to be concerned by Crawford, but these are trends to continue monitoring.

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