After robust numbers, Crawford and Giants aim for new rings
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — A season after setting a franchise record for wins, the San Francisco Giants aren’t stalking numerical goals in 2022.
The Giants are after something more substantial, shortstop Brandon Crawford says.
“The goal is to be the last team standing,” said Crawford, who knows the feeling.
“Done it a couple of times before. That’s our mindset going into this year,” he said.
Both San Francisco and Crawford hit new production highs in the 107-win season a year ago, when the Giants set a franchise record with 241 homers and led the major leagues in victories.
Crawford, a World Series winner in 2012 and 2014 with the Giants, had career highs in almost every offensive category last year. He also made his usual contributions on the other side of the ball, winning his third Gold Glove.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t see the things that say you are in your-mid 30s, washed up, on your way out and stuff like that,” said Crawford, who turned 35 in January.
“I definitely got a little extra satisfaction for that. It’s not something that is in the back of my mind at any point, but if I do see something like that every once in awhile, it is just a little extra motivation factor, bulletin-board material. It’s not the first time I’ve ever been counted out in my career,” he said.
Crawford had season bests with 24 homers and 90 RBIs in 2021, and he also had a career-best slash line of .298/.522/.895 in 138 games. He added 30 doubles and 56 walks, both third most in his career.
He finished fourth in the NL MVP voting and received four first-place votes, third behind Bryce Harper (17) and Juan Soto (six) and more than third-place finisher Fernando Tatis Jr. (two).
Crawford’s numbers punctuated a Giants’ onslaught that also featured career-best production from two-time World Series winner Brandon Belt and included 17 players who hit at least five homers.
Oracle Park has never been known as hitter-friendly, but “collectively I think we did a good job of changing that,” Crawford said.
Crawford credited a new hitting approach that he developed with input from manager Gabe Kapler and his new staff before the 2020 season and fine-tuned in 2021.
“Brandon made some mechanical changes, but he also was open to new styles of practice, and those styles were slightly more challenging than they have been in years past,” Kapler said.
After hitting a career-low .228 in 2019, Crawford said he was “kind of open to anything.”
“We worked hard on my bat path and just a slight setup adjustment to kind of simplify everything,” Crawford said. “Now that I feel like I have that muscle memory for where the bat path is supposed to be.”
Other Giants either returned to form or made significant strides in Kapler’s second year.
Right-hander Logan Webb took a step forward and is the leading contender for the No. 1 spot in the starting rotation. Reliever Camilo Doval stepped into a valuable bullpen role late in the season after injuries struck.
“Definitely an historic year for the Giants as a franchise,” Crawford said. “The home runs that we hit … and a big step up for some of our pitchers. Like Logan Webb, who is emerging as one of the top pitchers in the big leagues. It was just a great year as a team.”
The buy-in to the Kapler way was a significant factor.
“The overall effort for everyone,” he said. “The unselfishness. Getting pinch-hit for. Coming off the bench. Getting pinch-hits. The relievers coming in whenever they were asked and doing a great job. We did a great job of that.”
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