Explaining Brandon Crawford’s 2015 Power Surge

Brandon Crawford is coming off an All-Star season in which he not only won his first Gold Glove, but his first Silver Slugger as well. The last to win both awards in San Francisco? Barry Bonds in 1997. Although Crawford may not have all the tools that Bonds did, he has come a long way since he made his debut at shortstop for the Giants in May of 2011. Crawford entered the league projected as a shortstop with plus defense, but also as an offensive project. So what sparked him to have the second-most home runs (21) among all shortstops, more than his totals from 2013 and 2014 combined, and a SLG% of .462 that led the all other qualified shortstops in the league by more than 20 points? An aggressive approach at the plate paired with slight mechanical adjustments. Consider Crawford’s Z-Swing%:


Now consider his hard-hit%:


These graphs, courtesy of data from FanGraphs, tell an interesting story. For the first four years of his career, Crawford’s Z-Swing% and hard-hit% had a direct correlation. In the first two years of his career, Crawford had a Z-Swing% that was barely above average in the league and a hard-hit% that was below average. Last year, however, his Z-Swing% skyrocketed to more than 8% above league average and he had a hard-hit% that was, for the first time in his career, above average. Yet, there is something odd about his recent success at the plate.

Crawford was not making more contact than in the past; he had just improved on the quality of contact with his new swing and more aggressive approach. Last year, he posted the 16th-worst SwStr% (percentage of swings and misses) in the league at 13.6% and a below-average 73.6% Contact%. Crawford also showed more aggression on pitches outside the zone, posting an O-Swing% (percentage of swings on pitches outside the zone) of 35.2% which is also worse than the league average of 31.8%. All of these were the worst numbers in their respective categories for his young career.

Despite all of this, his aggression at the plate and his change in mechanics led him to become a top power hitter at his position last year and a legitimate threat in the second half of the Giants batting order. Although the trend in these numbers may be hard to fully validate due to the small sample size, the new-found pop in the bat could make Crawford a much more valuable player (as finding power among shortstops in today’s league is a rarity). If his Z-Swing% and hard-hit% continue to be linearly related, Crawford may very well continue his progress in 2016 and bring power to a Giants lineup that was fourth to last in total home runs last season. One thing is for certain: his flow will remain among the game’s elite.

(pearlswithplaid, pearlswithplaid.blogspot.com)

I am a third year ISE student at the Ohio State University who is blogging to stay active about talking all things baseball. I would appreciate any helpful advice or feedback on my writing style or flow of logic.

Comments are closed.