When selecting an adjective to preface a player’s name, there are always a few ways to go. Take Carl Crawford. If kicking a little knowledge about his contract status is your thing, then go with “pending free agent.” If you’d rather kick it old school with his age, then hit the folks with a “28-year-old.” There’s always more obvious attributes to throw in front of Crawford’s name too, like “speedy” or “athletic,” but if you really want to accurately portray Crawford’s play this season, then “MVP candidate” might do the trick.
No, really. Justin Morneau leads the majors with 4.8 WAR and Robinson Cano is close behind at 4.5 WAR, but it’s Crawford who is in third with 4.2 WAR; no other major league batter is over 4, although Josh Hamilton and David Wright are a sneeze away. Crawford probably won’t surpass Morneau anytime this season, but he’s playing at a ridiculous pace. His best season came just last year as he finished with 5.5 wins. He’s more than three-fourths of the way there and the mid-season break isn’t for another week. That’s unfathomable.
Crawford’s wOBA is near .390 and his ISO nearing a career high. It’s not being buoyed by an increased amount of homers, though, as every year since 2005 has been held as the perspective year for Crawford’s first 20 homer campaign. It still hasn’t happened and may never happen; he’s projected to finish with 14 this year. On the basepaths Crawford offers success through excellent conditioning and various moves. He’s not quite Kobe Bryant on the baseline, since he doesn’t have a move as effective as a jab step, but he’s so well-conditioned and able to differentiate between pickoff move and honest movement towards the plate that it’s generally to a perfect throw when Crawford is caught.
It’s not just Crawford’s offense getting the job done either. He rocks his glove on the right side and yet has no issues with balls hit to either his glove side or arm side. Watching him for long enough in comparison to players without such blessed range make you appreciate that Crawford only dives when the ball is on the outer limit of human being physical limitations. The numbers reflect this too. Crawford’s 15.2 UZR figure puts him on a pace to eclipse his previous career high in yet another category. His UZR/150 is currently 32.1 which would top his 24.1 number in 2004.
Surpassing Ben Zobrist’s 2009 season for the best season in Rays’ history by WAR seems unlikely since Crawford has to remain on this pace. That result would be an ever so fitting parting gift if Crawford is indeed on his way elsewhere this off-season.
Preface that with “bittersweet”.