Shortly after the first round of All-Star voting results was released Monday morning, Giants manager Gabe Kapler pulled up FanGraphs, one of his favorite websites. He clicked on the league leaders and then narrowed the group down to the National League and shortstops in particular.
Kapler had seen that Brandon Crawford was fourth in All-Star voting among NL shortstops and wanted to know where his guy ranked in terms of Wins Above Replacement. Coming into the day, Crawford (2.1 fWAR) ranked third, behind Fernando Tatis Jr. (2.5) and Trea Turner (2.2).
He'll be a bit higher after Monday's game.
Crawford hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning that broke a tie against the Arizona Diamondbacks and led the Giants to a 5-2 win at Oracle Park. He later hit a deep sacrifice fly to add an RBI, his 44th of the season. That ranks second in the National League. The 15 homers are tied for fourth. The defense, even at the age of 34, seems as dependable as ever, as Crawford showed on a nifty scoop early in the game.
Kapler has seen it all and knows that his Giants are 41-25 in large part because of the value Crawford brings on both sides. It's why Kapler pulled up the numbers, eager to see if the numbers backed up his personal feelings that his shortstop was being overlooked.
"It's pretty favorable for Craw. He's really had a great year," Kapler said. "Obviously Tatis is a great shortstop as well, but I put Craw up there with anybody in the game right now. I'm very confident in his defense and his at-bats have been outstanding all year."
Crawford is a genuine MVP candidate through 40 percent of the season, but that likely won't put him in the starting lineup at Coors Field in a month. Tatis has 701,251 All-Star votes, leading Chicago's Javier Baez by nearly half a million. Los Angeles' Corey Seager, who has been on the IL for a month, is third, one spot ahead of Crawford, who has 122,536 votes.
Tatis, worth 2.5 WAR with a league-leading 19 homers, would certainly be a deserving choice, and one that pleases a league office that views him as one of the faces of the sport. But Kapler and Crawford's teammates want to see him on that team, too, and they were effusive in their praise after the win:
Brandon Belt: "I think this is the best he's ever been ... He's keeping it simple out there: See ball, hit ball. He's doing a great job for us and he's one of the best players in the world right now."
Curt Casali: "I've always followed him from afar. There are certain people that you just admire on opposing teams and just the way that he goes about his business and the fluidity that he has at shortstop, it's pretty cool. He makes some really great plays and he makes the hard ones look even easier
"I think he has taken to the challenge of maybe some people writing him off. Without Brandon Crawford we're not where we are right now. He's been arguably our best player, one of our most important players, and the fact that he goes out there day in and day out has been huge for us."
Alex Wood: "He can just impact the game in so many ways. His leadership, his defense, doing it with the bat, good on-base (percentage), walking, making pitchers work even when he's not getting hits. It's just been an absolute blast to watch him every single day. To see the level of play that Brandon Crawford is playing shortstop right now on both sides of the ball, it's just a treat to watch every day, man. He's been our MVP, one of our MVPs to this point. I just can't wait to watch the rest of the year unfold for him."
Crawford's peers and coaches around the league will have a chance to vote for backups once the fan vote is settled, and that could be his best path to Coors Field. He has always commanded respect around the game and in his own clubhouse, although perhaps that's not always conveyed to him.
"It's nice that they say that to you guys, I guess," Crawford said, laughing. "A couple guys have said a few nice things. I think more than actually saying anything, a few looks I've gotten from Buster have made me feel the best. When I hit the homer in Texas off the lefty, I crossed home plate and I saw Buster was kind of like, 'Who are you? Who is this guy? How did you hit a left-handed slider that hard?' Stuff like that, you can tell they're impressed or that it's the best that they've seen me."