Is Mariners’ J.P. Crawford truly making a leap at the plate?
That haven’t been a lot of hits lately to go around for the Mariners, but that just makes what shortstop J.P. Crawford is doing offensively early on this season all the more impressive.
After recording a single Thursday, one of just five hits Seattle had all night in a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Crawford has now registered a knock in 13 of his last 14 games. He also has 11 multi-hit games already, and he currently owns one of the better slash lines in all of baseball – .363/.454/.582 for a 1.036 OPS.
Those numbers are big, and they might seem out of character for a player who hit .273 with a .714 OPS and nine home runs last season. Then again, it could actually be the start of a year where he shatters those career-high marks from 2021.
There’s good reason to think that could be the case, as Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto explained during his weekly show Thursday on Seattle Sports Station.
“We’ve seen that before from J.P. – we’ve seen it in June of last year, we saw it briefly in May or June of 2019 when he first came to the big leagues,” Dipoto said about Crawford going on a tear like he has been on in the opening weeks of this season. “And what J.P. is doing now that makes it more sustainable is he is controlling the strike zone in ways that most other players in the league just don’t.”
Crawford has struck out just 13 times in 26 games, drawing walks just as often and reaching base an additional three times by being hit by pitches. As a result, he leads the American League in both batting average and on-base percentage, and Dipoto said Crawford’s plate discipline is also a factor in him hitting the ball with more authority. Crawford’s four homers already have him nearing halfway to his career-high even though there’s still about 84% of the season to go.
Well, that's one way to extend your hitting streak to 🔟 games. pic.twitter.com/IpEgpBqAN2
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 1, 2022
“He is really refined in the pitches he swings at, and as a result his exit velocities, his batted ball damage right now is considerably greater than it’s ever been,” Dipoto said. “And I do think he’s learned lessons where, you know, it’s hard to believe he’s going to OPS north of 1.000 for a season – that’s really high water – but the things he’s doing will result in a more impactful offensive game.”
Crawford’s strong start to the season is making the Mariners’ decision to sign him to a contract extension, which was announced on opening day, look all that more wise. Did the M’s have any indication improvements would be coming from the bat of a player who was known more for the Gold Glove he won in 2020 than anything else?
“None, other than his age,” Dipoto replied to Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk. “J.P.’s at the apex of what the prime of a player’s career generally looks like – he’s playing his 27-year-old season. He has consistently and methodically gotten better every year that he’s played and there’s no reason that that should stop when you’re 27. That’s when it’s starting to hit its crest. We had a suspicion that he would that he would continue to improve, but this first month has been considerably more than just improving. He has morphed into one of the best players in the league for this month.”
Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below, and catch a new edition live at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday morning during Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show.
More from the Jerry Dipoto Show: Kyle Lewis’ timeline, roster thoughts