The title for this blog post might seem a little reactionary; after all, I don’t think anyone expects Brandon Crawford to be a good hitter in 2012, but what are the expectations of Brandon Crawford on offense?
The Bill James projections say that Brandon Crawford will be a .282 weighted on-base average (wOBA) batter in the upcoming season. ZiPS — my preferable projection system — has Crawford at an approximate wOBA of .284. (Note: ZiPS doesn’t project HBP or RBOE, so I just guesstimated those totals based on Crawford’s 2011. Therefore, my “ZiPS wOBA” might be a little off. If someone wants to correct this in the comments section, please do.)
If we bite the bullet and say that Crawford is a .284 wOBA batter, and make some additional assumptions*, we can work up some quick Wins Above Replacement (WAR) totals.
* My other assumption mainly being defense. For this post, I’m calling Crawford a plus-five run defender at shortstop. Plus-five runs on defense might not sound like a lot, but it’s a very optimistic estimate. For example: Over the past three years, only eight shortstops have averaged five runs or more on defense per 150 defensive games played. Thus, we’re calling Crawford one of the ten best defensive shortstops in baseball. I’m also setting the league average wOBA at .328. I’m assuming that Crawford will take 560 plate appearances for the WAR calculation. I’ve also included the positional adjustment for shortstop in the WAR totals — I just didn’t list it in the table.
(All values in runs, except for WAR.)
For Crawford, the break-even point between replacement level, and below, seems to be about a .275 wOBA. He’s about a half-win player if he hits a .280 wOBA; nearly a one-win player if hits a .290 wOBA; a 1.3 win player if he hits a .300 wOBA; and right around a league average player (two wins) if he hits a .310 wOBA.
Of course, this is a pretty rough sketch of Crawford; I didn’t include baserunning — which might shift him up a couple of runs — and my league estimate for wOBA at .328 could be high. Those are some potential issues, but I think overall, it shows that Crawford might be challenged to be an above replacement-level player. The Giants have said that they are prepared to go into next year with Crawford as the starting shortstop. I have a hard time with that statement, for multiple reasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants bring in a veteran on minor league contract to challenge Crawford during Spring Training.
I adore what Crawford does defensively, but his problems on offense put him in a pretty deep hole. If he’s a -20 run batter, then he might have a chance to be useful, but anything greater than -20 runs below average on offense and the Giants might be feeling the pinch. In my opinion, Rafael Furcal still makes a ton of sense for the Giants. He’ll give the team more stability at short, and Crawford would serve as a pretty nice health caddy. If Furcal could play 70% of the season at shortstop (approximately 113 games) then Crawford can pick up the rest without being too damaging.
One thing is clear: It could very well be another long season for the Giants, and their fans, at shortstop.