Why the Giants' Brandon Crawford is making a viable MVP case so far in the National League
The veteran shortstop is enjoying a serious renaissance in 2018
Coming off a 98-loss season in 2017, the Giants this year find themselves at .500 and in the mix for the NL West title or an NL wild-card berth. Curiously, this bounce-back has only a bit to do with their two marquee winter additions, Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. Instead one of the biggest factors has been the Brandon Crawford renaissance.
Back in 2015, the Giants' shortstop made the All-Star Game and won a Silver Slugger on the strength of a 115 OPS+. In 2016, Crawford's OPS+ slipped to 108, and last season it declined further to 86. Given that Crawford last season was in his age-30 campaign, it seemed reasonable to assume decline had set it. Well, get a load of his 2018 to date ...
As well, Crawford is top 10 in the NL in total bases, and he's hit into just two double plays all year. What's notable about the very excellent numbers above is that as recently as May 13 Crawford was lugging around an OPS in the .600s. Since that low point, though, he's been on an utter tear: .459/.521/.776 over his last 96 plate appearances. To be sure, that span also includes a BABIP of .500, which is beyond unsustainable. That said, according to KNBR Crawford around the time he started taking off altered his swing based on the advice of Pablo Sandoval and Gregor Blanco. At some point, he's going to cool off, yes, but the baseline may be higher than you think thanks to this mechanical underpinning.
In any event, Crawford thus far has been an every-day shortstop who still adds value with the glove and who also is hitting like an All-Star first baseman. Throw in the fact that Crawford this season has been at his best in high-leverage situations -- i.e., clutch situations -- and you have a viable MVP candidate in the NL. Whether he remains as much by the time the ballots are in the hands of voters depends, of course, on how well Crawford can sustain his production to date. So far, though, he's been among the NL's top contributors, and that's in large measure because his absurd current hot streak.
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