San Francisco Giants: Brandon Crawford named National League’s starting All-Star shortstop, Buster Posey a backup and Brandon Belt among Final Vote candidates

AT&T PARK — Brandon Crawford had arguably the worst year of his life in 2017. His wife had two miscarriages. One sister-in-law dealt with the trauma of reliving abuse by coming out as one of Larry Nasser’s accusers. Another died suddenly from complications due to asthma.

On top of all of that, the San Francisco Giants shortstop had by far the worst year of his major league career: His batting average and slugging percentage each dropped by .027, his on-base percentage dropped by .037 and his .709 OPS was the lowest since his second full season in the big leagues.

On Sunday, Crawford, fresh off of the birth of his fourth child and hitting .301, was named the starting shortstop for the National League All-Star team, and will head to Washington, D.C. for the All-Star Game on July 17. It is the first time he’s been voted in, after being named as a reserve in 2015.

The last time he was in the nation’s capital, Crawford picked up some Lego sets to build with his three older children during the Giants’ day off last week. Now that they’ll all be spending the All-Star break in Washington, D.C., with him — along with newborn Bryson and wife Jalynne — he said he’ll have to buy a few more to occupy them in the hotel.

Crawford got the fourth-most votes of any player in player-only voting, trailing Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman. His 3,212,103 votes nearly doubled the second-place votegetter at shortstop, former Oakland Athletics farmhand Addison Russell (1,805,856). It was the fourth-widest margin in both leagues.

Crawford will be the Giants’ first All-Star starting shortstop since 2001, when Rich Aurilia got the nod.

“Whenever you get that much fan support, it’s definitely special,” Crawford said. “I definitely appreciate all the votes from the fans. It should be a lot of fun.”

When Alonzo Powell was hired as the Giants’ hitting coach this January, after Crawford’s dismal 2017, he met with Crawford at the Giants’ minor league complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., near Crawford’s home.

“I kept telling Brandon, ‘There’s nothing wrong with your swing. It’s just a matter of syncing up and letting that good swing come out,'” Powell said this week.

Between San Francisco’s late-April series against the Washington Nationals, and their four-game set at AT&T Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers, both Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval approached Crawford, and told him that his hands used to be about two inches higher. The Giants shortstop had been mired in a 13-for-64 slump — one of the worst months of his Major League career — and finished April hitting .189.

“Pablo had mentioned that his hands were a tick lower, so he picked them up, and he’s been on fire ever since,” Powell said.

In May, Crawford hit .412, leading all National League shortstops in batting, hits (42), doubles (9), RBIs (21), slugging (.618) and OPS (1.064), while hitting four home runs. It was, hands-down, the best month of his career.

Since the end of April (going into play on Sunday), Crawford has hit .347 (74-for-213) with eight home runs, 36 RBIs, a .559 slugging percentage, a .416 OPS and 32 runs scored in 59 games. He is leading all National League shortstops in batting, on-base percentage (.365), is second in slugging (.482), OPS, doubles (21) and RBIs (39), and third in home runs.

“It’s been fun to watch,” said catcher Buster Posey, who was himself elected as an All-Star reserve via player vote. “Obviously, his glove has been elite for quite some time now, and the way he’s swung the bat this year, he’s definitely deserving to be there.”

In 2017, Crawford’s WAR — wins above replacement — fell from a career-high 5.4 in 2016 to 2.1. Before the All-Star Break this year, the three-time Gold Glover already surpassed that, at 2.5. His defensive runs saved — 6 — is well on pace to surpass his 9 from last season.

“Brandon’s got great hands on defense, and now, you take that same aptitude and that same concept on offense — use your hands, trust your hands — and that’s what he’s been doing,” Powell said. “I think it’s more so the confidence, to go along with the adjustment … I joke with the guys, it’s like the three-point shooter in the NBA: Sometimes, you just need to see the ball go through the hoop. Brandon got a couple hits, and now, your swagger gets a little better.”

*****

Posey was leading the voting at catcher as of a week ago, but he was beat out for the starting spot by the Chicago Cubs’ Wilson Contreras. Contreras finished with 2,172,682 votes, to Posey’s 1,918,966.

“I didn’t know which way it was going to go,” Posey said. “Obviously, any time you’re selected, it’s a huge honor.”

Posey got 370 votes from his fellow players, and was the only NL catcher to receive votes.

Posey’s 38 runs scored, .367 OBP and 18 doubles are third among big league catchers, while his .285 batting average ranks fourth.

*****

Brandon Belt, the Giants’ first baseman, is among the final five National League players available to be voted into the All-Star Game by fans. Belt leads the Giants with 13 home runs despite missing time with an emergency appendectomy, and has 39 runs and 41 RBIs on the year. He’s hitting he’s hitting .300/.393/.500 with 16 doubles, and is going up against Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar (.303, 42R, 20HR, 59RBI), Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter (.256, 52R, 16HR, 38RBI), the Los Angeles Dodgers utility man Max Muncy (.270, 39R, 20HR, 38RBI) and Washington shortstop Trea Turner (.282, 54R, 11HR, 37RBI, 22 SB).

Voting ends on Wednesday, July 11, 2018, at 4:00 p.m. ET.

“They do paper ballots still? I don’t know how to work those technological things,” Posey said.

Updated at 4:37 p.m.

Updated with quotes at 7:06 p.m.

Ryan Gorcey

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