Compute this: Brandon Crawford makes tough plays look easy

Giants reason for hope: Ehire Adrianza

Compute this: Brandon Crawford makes tough plays look easy
March 7, 2014, 1:00 pm
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Data compiled by MLB Advanced Media show that Brandon Crawford made the most 'remote' plays of any player in 2013. (AP)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brandon Crawford wants you to know that he is not a robot.

“I definitely do feel emotions,” the Giants shortstop said, in his typically flat, emotionless voice. “I am human.” 

Well then, domo arigato, Mr. Crawford. Everyone can see your true identity.

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Except Crawford, of course, is telling the truth. Want to see an authentic emotional response? Just watch him smile and laugh when you mention the recent piece about him on – the one that reveled in his ability to make astoundingly difficult plays at shortstop, and, well, also reveled in his bereft expression after such plays.

“Brandon Crawford plays the kind of defense that makes hitters feel feelings,” wrote the talented Jeff Sullivan, amid a wonderfully GIF-studded article showing the shortstop’s best work in 2013. “I’m not sure if Crawford feels feelings, himself, and as such I’m not sure if Crawford is actually human. But then, if he isn’t, that could help explain the defensive plays above.”

As Sullivan discovered when mining data from MLB Advanced Media, defenders made 8.3 percent of plays keyed in as “remote” by game loggers. Crawford made five of those plays, which not only led all shortstops but all major leaguers. Only Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks converted as many as four.

It’s subjective, of course, whenever a statistician in the press box determines if a play graded as “impossible, remote, unlikely, even, likely or routine.” (You’ll be glad to know exactly zero percent of impossible plays were made, preventing the universe from collapsing onto itself.)

But if nothing else, the article provided a tidy little receptacle to collect and admire Crawford’s best dazzlers – and deadpans -- last season.

“Yeah, but the Bryce Harper catch up the middle…” Crawford said. “I laid there for awhile and I smiled at Marco. I did. They just didn’t show it in the photo they picked.”

Whether he’s throwing it around the horn or voicing over a bank commercial, Crawford’s even cadence and demeanor are becoming the stuff of legend. Sometimes it can frustrate fans and the media when a player goes flat calm. Crawford somehow makes it charming – maybe because in a mischievous way, he revels in it, too. (Kind of like he digs posing for family portraits, toy dogs and all, on Twitter.)

“I have emotions, but I try not to show them on the field because it’s still the middle of the game,” Crawford said. “I’m not going to get too pumped up because there’s plenty of game left.”

What about when the Giants won the World Series?

“I was pretty happy,” he intoned.

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The Giants pitching staff is happy to have a shortstop whose range, athleticism and playmaking ability have few peers in the game. Atlanta Braves rookie Andrelton Simmons won the Gold Glove Award last year, and with his reputation cemented, he’ll probably have to ask Omar Vizquel for trophy case advice before his career is through.

Crawford certainly has the skills to compete for the award. The key, aside from politics and reputation, is consistency. As Crawford pointed out, after two of those five “remote”plays he made last season, he went on to make an error later that game.

It couldn’t have been easy for Crawford last season. He had Pablo Sandoval at third base, who was limited to barely more than fall-down range because of weight issues. At second base, he had Marco Scutaro with his 37-year-old legs and chronic back pain.

Crawford insisted he really didn’t feel like he had to cheat in two directions at once.

“How I positioned myself didn’t really have much to do with the guys around me,” he said. “I’ll position myself where I think the guy will hit the ball.”

That’s a skill he felt he improved last season, just because he had another year to learn tendencies of hitters as well as the tendencies of his own pitchers and what they were liable to throw. The only change was that sometimes, when Scutaro shaded to pull a left-handed hitter, Crawford would have some additional coverage duties at second base on a comebacker or a stolen-base attempt. That’s how the Giants completed an unorthodox 5-6-3 double play one day at Dodger Stadium.

There are plenty of times when Crawford shows his emotions off the field, too. You can bet there will be moments on Saturday, when he and his wife, Jalynne, are scheduled to induce labor and welcome their second daughter. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was good enough to give Crawford the entire weekend off.

Before he took the respite, though, Crawford made sure to respond to the Fangraphs article on Twitter. He shared the link along with the comment: “made me very emotional, good read.”

He also attached a photo of himself – a deadpan mugshot, of course.

And there’s your proof, folks. When’s the last time you met a robot who gets sarcasm?