Brandon Crawford's huge first half is a big reason why the Giants are in first place, and it will land him in the All-Star Game next month and possibly put him back in contention for a fourth Gold Glove Award.
Crawford could get MVP consideration in a few months, and if he can keep this up, he'll be in a good position to re-sign with the Giants, something that was far from guaranteed for the hometown shortstop before the season started.
With 17 homers, 51 RBI and 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, Crawford is once again one of the best players in the National League. There's just one (very minor) downside to all of the success.
At 34 and in the final year of his contract, Crawford has made himself far too valuable to live out his longtime dream of getting on a mound in a big league game.
"I definitely would love to at some point and I told Kap that I was ready," Crawford said on this week's Giants Talk Podcast. "He thought about it and then after the game he was like, 'Yeah, we can't do that.' It's probably not going to happen but it would be fun at some point."
Manager Gabe Kapler isn't opposed to putting a position player on the mound. He used Tyler Heineman in a blowout last year and Darin Ruf in one earlier this season, and before Heineman took the mound against the A's last August 16, Crawford put his hand up. But even then, Crawford was far too irreplaceable for the Giants to take the injury risk.
"I have no doubt that he would be able to throw strikes, but as competitive as Brandon is, the likelihood is that he would probably try to throw strikes and then some, and try to win those battles," Kapler said. "I think it would be a lot of fun to see him out there and at the same time, I'm not sure I could live with myself if there was an (injury), even if it just took him out of games for a couple of days. That's not to say that we ever want to put anybody in harm's way, but especially with Brandon it feels like there's a lot on the line given he's our everyday shortstop and a guy that means so much to us right now."
The Brandons have been talking for a decade about how they would like to get on a mound, and Crawford in particular regularly mimics pitchers during batting practice and occasionally gets a few actual pitches in as players wait around during spring training drills.
Belt was a good left-handed pitching prospect as a Texas high schooler, so much so that years later another Texan recalled that it was Belt's arm, not bat, that stood out as a teenager.
"You should have seen him pitch in high school," Clayton Kershaw said in 2013. "He was known for how good he was on the mound."
Crawford pitched in high school and ended up making a few relief appearances at UCLA when the team was having issues closing games and allowed the shortstop to audition for a dual role with a bullpen session. Crawford has said in the past that he got it up to 93 mph on the mound as a junior. The repertoire has become more varied as a professional, and Crawford would have something else to bring to the mound.
In recent years, Crawford has cracked up teammates by impersonating some of the more unique pitchers on staff like Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Tyler Rogers. He said he would love to take some of those moves into a game.
"I would probably throw a shimmy out there, maybe a quick slide step that Johnny does every once in a while," Crawford said. "I don't know if I would go full Rogers but I would definitely drop down at least once also."
A Crawford relief appearance might rival Pablo Sandoval's entertaining debut on the mound, but it'll have to wait. He's far too valuable to be used to get through an inning in a blowout this year, but perhaps this hot start will allow Crawford to one day pitch for the Giants. One of the few Giants fans who has seen Crawford on a mound has a pretty good solution: