J.P. Crawford: A Gold Glover at Shortstop… but is it enough?

Sep 26, 2020; Oakland, California, USA; Seattle Mariners Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford throws the ball to first base. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2020; Oakland, California, USA; Seattle Mariners Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford throws the ball to first base. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /
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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – SEPTEMBER 22: J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners reacts after grounding out to first in the third inning. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Jettisoning J.P.

There’s a common folly that fans can fall into, and it’s valuing a member of the team you root for higher than where they actually should be. We have had guys like Griffey, the Big Unit, and Edgar, who are unquestionably one of the greatest to ever play their position. Those aren’t the arguments I’m talking about.

When you have a talented young guy, it can be easy to overrate him. After his Gold Glove, and having sent out Segura, are we doing just that with Crawford?

Let’s start with defense. Crawford won the Gold Glove with a 0.9 DWar, at least according to Baseball Reference. It was a great rate and comes from a decent sample size of 53 games, good enough to get him into the top ten of all players on the season. Let’s multiply that out to a full season, subtracting a bit for late-season attrition, and say he finishes at 2.5 DWar. How does that compare to the last few years, at least of shortstops?

Pretty good, it turns out. Check out how he would finish both as a shortstop, and for his ranking in all of baseball.

  • 2019 – SS: 3rd – Overall: 6th
  • 2018 – SS: 3rd – Overall: T-4th
  • 2017 – SS: 2nd – Overall: T-4th
  • 2016 – SS: 3rd – Overall: 7th
  • 2015 – SS: 3rd – Overall: T-6th

His defense isn’t going to be a problem if he keeps it up. Turning in 2.5 DWar each year puts you solidly in the top ten overall, and in the top three at the position.

What about offense though?

He hit a career-best .255 this year, 33 points above his career average. To avoid falling into the trap of rating someone too highly, that I mentioned above, let’s keep those numbers going forward.

With a slash line of .255/.336/.338, there is a lot left to be desired at the plate. In fact, he is just about the opposite of a qualified hitter as he is as a defender. That top three ranking on defense is offset by quite a poor ranking on offense when compared to the qualified hitters at shortstop.

There are around 20 hitters that qualified, depending on where you look. Let’s take MLB.com, since it’s the site of the sport being played, to see that there are 22 qualified shortstops. Here’s exactly how poor Crawford was at hitting in 2020.

  • Batting Average: .255 – 19th
  • On Base: .336 – 11th
  • Slugging: .338 – 22nd, dead last by 16 points
  • Homeruns: 2 HR – 22nd, dead last again
  • Steals: 6 SB – 6th… but caught three times. not a great success rate, and below league average

It’s not great. Again, only about a third of the season was played in 2020, but you have to go off something. Baseball likely is for arbitration numbers, just expanding/projecting out into a full season.

If this is what Crawford is going to do on offense, we are potentially looking at a poor man’s Andrelton Simmons. Less average, less pop, less defense.

Let’s move over to Fangraphs for a cleaner look at War and rankings. Not to try and cherry-pick, but because they have a nice, clean, easy to sort mode to look at stats. Of the 23 qualified shortstops in 2020, J.P. Crawford was 16th. This means, according to them at least, that he was a below-average shortstop in 2020.

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