Brandon Crawford’s Latest Adjustment(s)

Brandon Crawford’s big power breakout has been a big part of the Giants’ good work so far this season despite an iffy rotation. Jeff Sullivan did a great job pointing out the changes he saw in Crawford’s swing, and the player agreed with most of his analysis. But Sullivan also pointed out that pitchers were in the middle of adjusting to the player, and it’s been Crawford’s adjustment(s) back to their adjustment that has helped him sustain the power into the late months.

One was mechanical, the other had to do with approach. Taking the two together really makes Crawford’s new power level seem sustainable, though.

In another episode of “Reading Jeff Sullivan to a Player,” the player agreed with the analysis, but had a few things to add.

Here’s what Sullivan wrote about Crawford’s swing adjustments in particular:

“This year, Crawford is starting with his hands a little lower. He has what seems to be a shorter path to the ball. But he also just seems to have a more forceful swing, deriving more power from his lower body. His back leg gets closer to a 90-degree angle. It appears there’s more force being transferred to his front leg.”

Here are the moving pictures that Sullivan made, for context.

2014

crawford_2014

2015

crawford_2015

About the weight transfer, Crawford agreed that he had thought about it. At first, he didn’t know if had anything to do with his hips, though. “I wanted to be more aggressive this year, and I’ve wanted to hit the ball harder but not necessarily with my upper body,” he told me this month. “It was something I worked a lot on in the offseason.” After a little thought, he admitted that was a decent way of putting it: “Now that I think about it, yeah the hip transfer is a part of it.”

The adjustment with his hands actually happened in 2014, later in the season. “I started tapping my hands on my shoulder,” Crawford said of his setup. “It reminded me where my hands were. Sometimes my hands drift a little. It was something I tried and liked.” He also thought that keeping his hands lower allowed for a shorter, quicker path to the ball.

Crawford’s pull rate is up, but Crawford pointed to the adjustments we discussed and said he’s just been more effective at pulling. “In the past, if I wanted to hit for power, I’d really try to pull and that would cause me to either roll over or pop things up,” he said. “Now it’s more about getting a pitch to pull and reacting to it.”

But Sullivan’s piece came in mid-May, when the shortstop was at his best. Even then, the writer noticed that pitchers were throwing the shortstop fewer fastballs because he was doing more with them. “Yeah I noticed that,” smiled Crawford when confronted with the fact. “I’ve seen a lot more offspeed this year.”

And so, even after he’d worked on his mechanics, and his approach, and his hands, he had more work to do. June found him down to .217/.308/.402, and though that’s still good power, and still above league average overall, it was the player’s self-confessed worst month this year.

“There was an adjustment I had to make, in June, where I noticed they weren’t really throwing me fastballs,” Crawford admitted. “Just taking more of those pitches, really.”

Let’s take a look at his swing rates on pitch types in April and May versus June and then July and August. We don’t know exactly when he started changing in June — the player himself didn’t know — but we do know that it probably happened some time in June.

Brandon Crawford Swing Rate by Pitch Type by Period
Four-Seam Sinker Cutter Slider Curve Change
April-May 48.9% 52.3% 51.9% 57.0% 40.8% 55.9%
June 51.2% 42.5% 43.5% 48.9% 38.2% 48.0%
July-August 56.4% 64.5% 61.8% 60.0% 37.7% 58.7%
SOURCE: FanGraphs.com

Would you look at that. Crawford changed his approach… for a month. He stopped swinging at pitches, especially sliders, curves, changeups, and sinkers.

This mirrors his overall swing-rate changes in June. He tried to shore up his plate discipline since pitchers weren’t giving him fastballs.

Brandon Crawford Plate Discipline By Period
Date O-Swing% Z-Swing% Z to O Swing Ratio Swing% Zone% SwStr%
April-May 37.0% 72.7% 1.96 52.3% 42.9% 13.6%
June 30.4% 71.4% 2.35 46.9% 40.2% 12.9%
July-August 38.4% 80.5% 2.10 58.0% 46.7% 12.9%
SOURCE: FanGraphs.com

And then he went right back to swinging away. I wonder what could have made him do something like that. Let’s look at his pitch type by period. That fastball percentage early this year would have been the lowest of his career.

Brandon Crawford Pitch-Type Seen by Period
Four-Seam Sinker Cutter Slider Curve Change
April-May 26% 16% 7% 13% 10% 17%
June 30% 26% 6% 12% 8% 12%
July-August 32% 22% 6% 17% 11% 11%
SOURCE: FanGraphs.com

Brandon Crawford wasn’t seeing the fastballs he wanted. So he stopped swinging generally, and specifically stopped swinging at the bendy stuff. For a month. In return, pitchers started throwing him more fastballs. So Crawford started swinging again.

It’s amazing how quickly these adjustments happen, isn’t it?

“That’s what makes it tough,” shrugged Crawford. “Once you start to figure something out, they figure you out.”

We hoped you liked reading Brandon Crawford’s Latest Adjustment(s) by Eno Sarris!

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Aunt Jessie
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Aunt Jessie

Before the 2012 season — just after Crawfords post Tejada/Cabrera debut — I bought a Crawford batting practice jersey. I got heckled a few times walking to the park in 2012, and my reply was “well he needs BP / I’m trying to motivate him!” (In reality I just loved his defense.)

That said, I’d say I helped him out pretty good. You’re welcome, Brandon. I forgive you for ignoring me / not signing my jersey at Spring training in 2014. ;-p

PS. My girlfriend at the time bought a Vogelsong jersey when I bought my craw jersey. Those were both pretty nice short term investments, though mine has worked out better long term.

PPS. Still love you too Vogey!