John Paul Crawford
Height: 6'2" Weight: 199
Bats/Throws: Left / Right
Born: 01/11/1995 in Long Beach, California
Offseason home: Peoria, Arizona
Acquired: In trade from the Philadelphia Phillies, with Carlos Santana, for Jean Segura, James Pazos, and Juan Nicasio (12/03/2018)
MLB Debut: 09/05/2017
Free Agent after: 2024 season
Twitter handle: @jp_crawford
After a monster month of June, many around baseball—and us here at grandsalami.net—were outraged, appalled, or mildly annoyed that J.P. was not named to this year's AL All-Star team, left off in favor of Tampa Bay infielder Joey Wendle. Seattle's shortstop certainly deserved it, posting a batting line of .279/.341/.391 in the first half on the strength of a .352/.400/.528 June. Since the break, J.P. slipped a little, batting just .214 with 16 Ks in as many games, but a lot of those games were at home and as noted previously, he's a much better hitter on the road for some reason. June has always been his best month throughout his young career and July and August have been the worst; that held for July this year, but with luck (and a playoff chase) August 2021 will break the mold. Still, it might not be a bad idea to mix things up a little bit with the lineup, maybe keep Crawford in the leadoff spot in away games and try someone like Jake Fraley at the top at home. Just a thought.
J.P. has a problem. For whatever reason, ever since he became a Mariner, he's been a lousy hitter at home and that trend is continuing here in 2021. In the early going this year, Crawford is batting a very respectable .293 on the road and an unpleasantly aromatic .176 at TMP. At less than a month into the season the sample is too small to mean anything on its own, but add it to the previous two years and you get these aggregate splits: .277 road, .197 home. So...WTF, J.P.? Is it the Northwest air, the fish smell from Elliott Bay, the comforts of the home clubhouse lulling him to sleep? We know it's not the Seattle fans, because this includes 2020, when no fans were allowed in! It's a mystery, and if the Mariners had a batting coach worth his salt there might be hope of addressing this odd schism in John Paul's performance. Sadly, it will likely go untended and unexamined.
J.P. made some big strides forward in 2020. Not only did he win his first Gold Glove award for his defensive play at shortstop, he also improved with the bat, particularly against left-handed pitching. A .242 average vs. LHP might not look like anything to brag about, but when you consider his career average before last year was .144, it's plenty notable. He's still got a ways to go to achieve what many think he's capable of; in the minor leagues, he showed a great deal more plate discipline with on-base percentages around 100 points higher than his batting average at all levels, and whether it's due to the challenge of the higher talent level of Major League pitchers or contamination from a more homer-happy Mariners hitting philosophy (or both), his walk rate with Seattle has been just 10%, resulting in a precipitous drop in that figure. The 26-year-old Crawford hit the weight room this offseason and added about ten pounds of muscle to his 6'2" frame hoping to generate more extra-base hits this year. That's all well and good, but it would be a mistake to start swinging for the fences. Part of J.P.'s improvement last season came from reducing his K rate (16.8% in 2020 after 21% in 2019), and strikeouts will only go up if he starts looking for homers. Fortunately, he seems aware of this and cites the increased strength as a means of getting better bat speed with a shorter swing rather than a more powerful long one “I'm already feeling quicker and getting to balls quicker than I have in recent years,” Crawford said. “So I'm really excited to get going, for sure.”
Meanwhile, regardless of what he does with the stick, we can look forward to plenty of stellar plays like these in the field.