Ask any Mariners fan who the most irreplaceable player on this roster is. The clear-cut answer to this question for the Mariners is JP Crawford and do not let anyone tell you differently. The strides he has made this year have turned him into a real player, and the type of player who can be a difference-maker for years to come in the Seattle Infield.
There is a case to make for Ty France for team MVP, but there is no denying the widespread impact JP has had on this team. For starters, if JP was to get injured or have to miss time there is nobody on this team who could fill that hole at shortstop. In fact, nobody in the league can play shortstop quite like JP Crawford.
JP Crawford is the cornerstone of the Mariners infield and a large part of their success
JP has held down shortstop for 150 games this season, the fifth-most games played by anyone in the league to this point. His durability and availability had been a huge boost to the Mariners pitching staff, making play after play. Crawford currently has 1.6 dwar on the season, a phenomenal mark that signifies how impactful he has been on the defensive side. He should be well on his way to another gold glove.
The biggest game-changer for Crawford has been his improvement offensively. In every season in Seattle, he has made marginal improvements to his hitting. This year he has been extremely valuable in some things that show up on the stat sheet, and also a few that do not.
Crawford is slashing .267/.332/.371 on the season, a big improvement in his slugging and average from a season ago. His OBP has remained relatively steady, but he has hit the ball with more authority and consistency in 2021. Crawford has also improved his WRC+ from 94 to 100 this season according to Fangraphs, putting him right at league average.
Although much of his hard-hit and barrel numbers on Baseball Savant are pretty ugly, there are also many positives that show the strengths of Crawford’s game. He ranks in the 78th percentile in K% and the 86th percentile in chase rate. JP also ranks in the 62nd percentile in outs above average. His ability to produce productive at-bats, get on base, and put the ball in play has been a big boost for the Seattle lineup.
On top of all of this Crawford has done an admirable job holding down the leadoff spot. While he is not an ideal leadoff hitter, he has been solid at the spot for most of the season for a team who really didn’t have a good option there. He has also consistently worn down opposing pitchers, seeing 4.08 pitches per plate appearance. This mark is good enough for 17th in the American League.
Crawford has been a rock down the stretch for the Mariners. He has etched himself into the long-term plans by showing he has skills at the plate that are improving every year. Pair this with a power-hitting second baseman (Hello Marcus Semien), and Ty France at first and this is a playoff-caliber infield. There’s a lot to be excited about in Seattle, and JP Crawford will be in the middle of it for years to come.