JP Crawford was incredible on offense... and legitimately bad at defense in 2023

JP Crawford didn't just have a good offensive season. He had a great one. Unfortunately, he was one of the worst defensive SS in baseball in 2023.
Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

It's funny how fast things can change in baseball. Think about 2020. JP Crawford was on the team essentially because of his glove, and a common question that was brought up was "is his bat good enough to keep him around?". It was a fair question. OPS+ had him at 77, 90, 86, 91 over his first four seasons.

He had hit decent in that 2020 season, but we wondered if it was a fluke in the shortened season, or a predecessor of progress to come. 2021 looked better than 2022, but his OPS+ was near identical at 102 and 100, respectively. 2022 seemed worse from a fans perspective, and the defense wasn't getting any better.

Then, 2023 happened. JP Crawford wasn't just good at the plate now. He was great. Incredible, even. He had the second highest oWAR of any shortstop in baseball, finishing just ahead of Francisco Lindor, but in a distant second to Corey Seager. I don't think many fans realized that he was that good on offense. If he can do that for the next few years, then that's a massive asset and surplus for the contract that he signed. (5YR/$51M)

Defense though, that was a different story. You can find the numbers here by sorting through the different tables they have. It's... well, it's not good. Of the 50 players to have 100 AB while playing SS, JP was 39th out of 50 in dWAR. That's a far cry from where he was back in 2020. Check out some of the associated numbers that get him to that low ranking.

Arm strength: 38th of 57 (min 100 throws) 82.3 MPH
Outs Above Average: 33rd of 35 (min 162 attempts) -6 runs prevented, -8 OAA
Run Value: 51st of 55 (min 200 IP), -6 run value

It's funny, in a way, because the same question that has surrounded JP Crawford for a few years might still be lingering. Is he good enough to play shortstop? For the first time, though, it's not because of the bat. It's because of the defense. Would he be better suited at second base? Can the Mariners get by, and find enough success, by keeping him at SS? What if they went out and found a defensive SS to put out there, and slid JP to second?

I don't know that any of those things would happen, as it wasn't that long ago when the front office stated that JP was, in fact, the team's shortstop of the future. If someone like Taylor Walls became available from the Rays (not saying he is), would it be worth trying to put him at SS and JP at 2B? It's worth thinking about.

JP Crawford just wasn't good at defense this year. He can still make some highlight plays, but it might be worth a FO conversation to see if it would make sense to slide him over. The bat needs to be in the lineup, there is no question there. Shoot, it needs to be at the top of the lineup as an impact bat. JP wasn't just good for a SS on offense. He was good... period. He ranked 13th out of all qualified hitters in oWAR, ahead of guys like Bryce Harper and Jose Ramirez.

If he could step it up a bit on defense next year, he enters the conversation for best SS in baseball. Let's hope that happens. If not, maybe it's worth a talk about possibly moving him to second base.