A slideshow highlighting the top 40 Giants defensive plays of 2013 will be presented by yours truly at season's end. I'm nominating plays as the season progresses—Crawford's magnificent glovework is already occupying 15 of the 35 or so gems I've compiled so far.
He isn't as graceful or acrobatic as an Ozzie Smith, nor is he as fluid or poetic as an Omar Vizquel (it should be noted he's considerably larger than both of those legends).
But CrawDaddy can get to almost anything (just ask Yadier Molina). He dives after every ball hit to the left side and he has learned to mentally note who the batter/runner is—an underrated defensive skill that not only accounted for his even attempting to gun out Molina in the June 2 clash with St. Louis, but also enabled him to erase the speedy Emilio Bonifacio on a two-hop grounder June 4.
It would be difficult to convince anyone seeing him for the first time June 7 that Crawford belonged in the major leagues as a hitter—Arizona's Patrick Corbin abused him so terribly, Bruce Bochy pinch-hit for him after two ugly at-bats. Just know that the young shortstop has come a long way from 2011 or even last season with the bat.
Crawford is generally consistent and "stays in" well against lefties not named Corbin, although he is still susceptible to a good changeup from a righty. All five of his 2013 homers came in a 61-at-bat span in April; he hasn't gone yard since April 27 but remains a solid .290 hitter.
Among full-time N.L. shortstops, only Troy Tulowitzki has more RBI (a lot more, it should be said). Not bad for an eighth-place hitter who only hit .241 in Double-A three years ago.
P.S. Following his tough June 7, Crawford ripped four hits in the very next game.
Was he tipping his pitches? Possibly. Was he comfortable now that he's one of the richest starting pitchers in history? A resounding NO.
Cain's almost improbable third inning against St. Louis on June 1—he coughed up seven runs in the third inning without allowing any other baserunners over his six innings of work—put the thought out there, although publicly he's (accurately) attributed his struggles to missing his spots. Considering that was the second time this year St. Louis dropped a huge number on the Giants' ace...it was worth examining.
I've been repeatedly asked for my take on Cain's yo-yo of a season to date.
Players can struggle for a variety of reasons. Assuming Cain is healthy and isn't distracted off the diamond—the big guy is a warrior; it would be in character for him to understate an injury if he still felt capable of doing his job—it's simply a matter of his mechanics and command with men on base.
Cain's walk rate is roughly 33 percent higher than in 2012, and he's served up 13 homers (third-worst in the NL). I went back through my personal notes wondering if an abundance of hitters' counts is to blame for his high long-ball rate, but only three were hit in 2-0, 3-1 or 2-1 counts. Four were whacked on the first pitch of the at-bat—which indicates he's possibly too lax trying to steal strike one.
To Cain's credit, he's given the Giants at least six innings in 11 of 13 starts (even if he coughed up six-plus runs in three of those), but the Giants didn't give him $120 million to be an innings-eater.
Cain did win four of five starts with a 3.48 ERA overall in May, so it's not like we're talking 2012 Ricky Romero here—but with the Giants only 32-29 and his rotation mates either hurt or equally inconsistent, the time is now for The Horse to get back on the long winning trail.
June 7's effort at Arizona was a great step in that direction. After a first inning wrought with command issues and poor umpiring—Cain wasn't getting squeezed; he was simply getting screwed—he wound up tossing seven scoreless, efficient innings and left with a lead (soon surrendered by the 'pen.)
Thanks for reading and Go, Giants!