The play of Brandon Crawford at shortstop has often been talked about in reverential tones, at times showing a wizardry with the glove that would make the likes of Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel smile in delight.
The range he has shown is peerless, his hands as soft as any other at his position. His highlight reel this season might be as extensive as any player in the league.
Why, then, do the numbers not show this?
If we went only by the eye test, only by what we see on ESPN’s top-10 list, he’d rank right at the top of the shortstop position. Thankfully, however, we are not enslaved by just what our eyes perceive.
Contrary to what Mark Twain might have believed, statistics in baseball don’t lie. And the statistics don’t paint a pretty picture. They show us that not only has Crawford not been an elite-level defensive player, he’s been just about average at best.
Among all eligible players in the National League, Crawford ranks just 10th in fielding percentage, a good-but-not-great .971. Furthermore, the errors have racked up at an alarming pace, his 11 trailing only the Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro’s 15.
What does that tell us about Crawford, then, a player held in such high esteem by his peers and fans but not by the overall body of his work?
He is a little bit more style than substance.
The tools are all there for him to be great, and more often than not he is; his abilities are second to none. It is his mind that must catch up to his skill set.
Balls hit up the middle—where his range must be showcased—have a higher propensity to be caught than the ones hit right at him. He has a flair for the dramatic, making the spectacular routine but the routine an adventure. It is the easiest of plays that seem to bring him the most torture.
This isn’t to say that he one day might not meet his full potential. All it would take is a few less lapses in concentration. This is merely to point out that so far this season, his glove has not been as good as advertised.
Still, he’s only 26 years old and has a lot of baseball ahead of him. He has plenty of time to iron out the kinks and become what many people thought he already was. At this point in time, however, the glove of Brandon Crawford is more myth than reality. The numbers don't lie.