Crawford merits Gold Glove consideration

Wednesday, Sept. 5

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s difficult to imagine a better defensive shortstop in the National League than Brandon Crawford.

Crawford probably won’t win the Gold Glove Award, because the coaches and managers who cast ballots for the honor are likely to vote for somebody with more experience or a greater reputation.

However, Crawford might emerge as a viable candidate. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that coaches and managers from other teams have approached him to discuss Crawford’s defense. It can be safely assumed that Bochy has good things to say.

“This kid, the last two or three months, I don’t know who’s played better at short,” Bochy said. “That is how good he’s been defensively.”

Simply put, Crawford has every attribute an elite shortstop should possess. Sure hands. Vast range to either side. A throwing arm that would make many pitchers envious. Last year’s Gold Glove winner, Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, has been sidelined for most of the year, which potentially clears a path for Crawford.

Crawford compares favorably with his counterparts statistically, by traditional or modern measures. Entering Wednesday, he ranked third among NL shortstops with a .974 fielding percentage, behind Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (.979) and Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart (.975). But his 4.70 range factor (putouts and assists divided by number of innings or games played) was superior to Rollins’ 3.93 and Cozart’s 4.30.

Curiously, Pittsburgh’s Clint Barmes, who’s generally considered solid but not stellar, was the runaway leader in  Fangraph.com’s Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which measures a fielder’s success at reaching balls determined to be in his zone of the field. Barmes had a 13.1 UZR, followed by Cozart at 6.3 and Crawford at 5.8.

Anybody seeing the double play Crawford generated in Tuesday night’s seventh inning would have handed him the Gold Glove right then and there. Crawford had to handle Ryan Wheeler’s slow bouncer, tag Miguel Montero before he could slip past and flip a quick throw to first. Displaying his wealth of skills, Crawford accomplished all that.

I’m obviously biased, since I watch Crawford virtually every day. But that’s just it: The more I see of him, the more I’m convinced that he’s a Gold Glove shortstop.

Chris Haft

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