Brandon Crawford Belongs In The #2 Spot In The Lineup

 

Credit: Steven Robles – SF Giants Rumors

Credit: Steven Robles – SF Giants Rumors

The San Francisco Giants are about to wrap up their opening series in Arizona, and so far, three different players have started the game batting second: Brandon BeltHunter Pence and Gregor Blanco.

We knew before the season started that Marco Scuatro was going to start the year on the DL, and while Arias was the heir apparent (not the case, anymore!) to take his place in the field, who was going to take his place in the line, wasn’t as clear. And that is why we’ve seen a revolving door so far. But the one person who SHOULD be in that number two spot in the lineup has yet to join the party.

Brandon Crawford belongs in the number two spot in the line, right behind Angel Pagan and right in front of Belt.

Sure, it’s only 20 games, but in 2013, Crawford had 89 plate appearances, good for 76 at-bats, in the two-hole. During that time, he posted a .276/.371/.408 line. He had a 13.1% K rate compared to a 10.5% BB rate and posted a 132 tOPS+ (compares a batter to his normal value, the higher over 100, the better)

In the 8th spot, Crawford came to plate 271 times, with 246 official at-bats. His line was .268/3.26/.407, he struck out 15.9% of the time and walked only 0.1% of the time. His tOPS+ came in at 117.

A lot of the difference can be explained simply by the fact that in the 8-spot, Crawford is batting in front of the pitcher. He has to be a little more aggressive because he knows he has the pitcher behind him. This leads to the higher strikeout rate and lower walk rate, and even helps explain the lower batting average; more aggressive swinging at pitches he might normally take leads to more weak contact/easy outs. This is reflected in his BABip – .303 batting second, .296 batting eighth.

We’ve seen that Crawford can be better than the .255 hitter with no power he was once projected as. But we’re not going to see just how much better until he gets regular playing time in the second spot. With Belt, Buster Posey and Pence following him, pitchers aren’t going to want to walk him. Crawford has a good enough eye – his 17.4 K% and 7.8 BB% in 2013 are both at or near the accepted “average” – that he can work some counts and wait for good strikes to hit.

Sure, he might not be the perennial .300 hitter that Scutaro is in the same spot, but he’s certainly got a lot still to show us. And we’re not going to see it while Crawford tries to protect himself in the 8th spot in the lineup.

Plus, if Crawford bats second, then the Brandon’s would bat back-to-back. And that would be awesome.

~Robert Barsanti

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