Brandon Crawford could have been in for a rude awakening this season. For the first time in his 10-year MLB career, the Giants shortstop seemed destined for a platoon role.
Manager Gabe Kapler doesn't exactly subscribe to Bruce Bochy's old-school views. Kapler always is looking for ways to play to the numbers when it comes to his lineup. He's going to play to the best matchups for his hitters.
And the numbers said Crawford should sit against left-handed pitching this season. But after an early-season platoon role, Crawford has earned his right as the everyday starter in Kapler's first season managing in San Francisco.
“He has proven that he is still a productive offensive player in this league through his work this year,” Kapler said Sunday to reporters after the Giants' 14-2 win over the A's, via MLB.com. “I know last year was not a good year for him offensively, but Craw has been extremely competitive in the batter’s box against lefties and against righties.
"He’s gotten some big hits for us, and his stat line speaks for itself at this point. It’s been a shortened season, but it’s been a productive one.”
After going 2-for-5 with a grand slam in the Giants' rout over the A's, Crawford now is batting .283 with an .835 OPS through 46 games. Both of those are career highs. His .352 on-base percentage and .483 slugging percentage also are the best of his career.
Crawford came into the season with noticeable changes to his swing. His stance is much more open and his hands are lower. He has worked diligently with the Giants' multiple hitting coaches and it's paying off.
He now is batting .250 with a .704 OPS against lefties this season. Those aren't mind-blowing numbers, and his power certainly isn't as strong vs. southpaws. But this is his highest batting average and OPS against left-handers since his 2018 All-Star campaign. Crawford is a career .256 hitter with a .690 OPS when facing lefties.
Entering Monday, Crawford ranks fourth among all shortstops defensively with four Outs Above Average. He still is one of the best defensive players at his position, which makes him hitting well against lefties even that more important. The Giants are better defensively when Crawford is on the field, and he's giving Kapler every reason to play him every day.
The next era of Giants baseball is on its way, but veterans like Crawford are making sure they still have a place in San Francisco as well.