Brandon Crawford Inks 6-year Extension with Giants

Less than a week since being named the National League Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner at shortstop, Brandon Crawford has signed a six-year deal to remain with the San Francisco Giants through the 2021 season.

Currently 28 years old, this deal puts Crawford under contract through his age 34 season and gives the Giants an extra 4 years of control over the left-handed hitting infielder – Crawford was eligible for arbitration in this and the next offseason, and would’ve been a free agent after the 2017 season. The terms of the contract are as follows:

Essentially, the Giants have elected to pay Crawford in five $15 million increments: $15M for his two arbitration years (signing bonus and ’16/’17 salaries), and then $15M over what would’ve been the first four seasons of his free agency.

Crawford has always been well-known for his defensive prowess, and has a career DRS of 45 across 5 big-league seasons. In his first season in the bigs, 2011, Crawford appeared in only 65 games. In my opinion, this means it’s safe to say that Crawford could be expected to put up a number around 10 over a full season at SS. It should be noted that the number may be inflated by the 20 DRS he compiled in 2015, but I believe that may be closer to his true value than the 3 or 2 he posted in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

While his defense has always been a plus tool, Crawford has ramped up his offensive production in recent years. Take a look at the stats for yourself, courtesy of our friends at Baseball-Reference:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2011 24 SFG NL 66 220 196 22 40 5 2 3 21 1 3 23 31 .204 .288 .296 .584 67 58 4 0 1 0 1
2012 25 SFG NL 143 476 435 44 108 26 3 4 45 1 4 33 95 .248 .304 .349 .653 86 152 4 3 2 3 6
2013 26 SFG NL 149 550 499 52 124 24 3 9 43 1 2 42 96 .248 .311 .363 .674 93 181 10 5 1 3 6
2014 27 SFG NL 153 564 491 54 121 20 10 10 69 5 3 59 129 .246 .324 .389 .713 104 191 4 2 2 10 10
2015 ★ 28 SFG NL 143 561 507 65 130 33 4 21 84 6 4 39 119 .256 .321 .462 .782 114 234 18 11 0 4 9
5 Yrs 654 2371 2128 237 523 108 22 47 262 14 16 196 470 .246 .313 .383 .696 97 816 40 21 6 20 32
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/17/2015.

Pretty marked difference, right? While Crawford has increased his OPS+ every year of his career, he didn’t break 100 until the Giants’ World Series-winning 2014 campaign – however, that number was likely inflated by his inordinate number of triples (10), as he hit fewer 2B and just one more HR than he had in 2013, while actually hitting two points lower. However, in 2015 he eliminated all doubts about the validity of his 2014 season, more than doubling his career high in homers and setting a career mark in doubles, RBI, BA and SLG.

You’ll notice that in 2015, Crawford walked far less than he had in the past – his lowest total since his first full season in 2012. That’s due to a change in approach that Crawford has made, most visibly in 2015. According to PitchF/X, Crawford swung more often than he ever had in 2015, making offers at 52.4% of pitches tossed his way. Crawford increased his swing rates on pitches out of as well as in the zone – up to 35.1 O-Swing% (from 34.1 & 29.5 in ’13/’14) and 72.0 Z-Swing% (from 64.0 and 66.8 in ’13/’14). Interestingly, you’d think this leads to more contact, but it doesn’t – Crawford posted below-average contact rates in 2015. He made contact on 53.1% of swings on pitches outside the zone, and 84.9% of swings inside the zone (career averages are 56.3% and 86.3%, respectively) for a 73.5% total contact rate, down from his 76.1 career average.

One would assume that this means that Crawford is focusing on making better contact, if he is making less of it, and therefore increased his batted-ball speed and quality it 2015. Unfortunately, exit velocity was only tracked starting in 2105, so we don’t know what his exit velocities were like before this season (he averaged 90.43 MPH in 2015, FWIW). However, FanGraphs does have batted-ball type statistics before 2015, and interestingly enough Crawford hit the fewest line drives abd fly balls of his career in 2015, and the most ground balls. However, we see that Crawford’s HR/FB% was an astronomical 16.2%, nearly double his career average of 8.2% (which includes ’15, so it’s far doubled his career average before the season). This will be an interesting phenomenon to watch moving forward, to see if the Giants SS can sustain his offensive production from the 2015 season.

Overall, I think this is a pretty good signing from the Giants – with Matt Duffy seemingly cemented at the 3B spot, the Giants have their left side of the infield locked up for the foreseeable future now. Even if Crawford regresses a bit offensively, his defense should still be solid. I believe, however, that his true offensive potential is probably somewhere between his 2014 and 2015 seasons, and that kind of output with a plus glove is quite a value at the SS position. I think both sides walked away pleased with themselves today, and rightly so.

 

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