Yesterday on Twitter, I joked that at this early point in the season, Ned Colletti was looking really good for agreeing to eat all of that Adrian Gonzalez money in order to acquire Carl Crawford from the Red Sox last August.
That’s obviously not quite the way it went down, but after the first week of games, Crawford has unquestionably been the team’s offensive star so far. Remember when “who in the world is going to hit leadoff?” was the biggest concern for half of the winter? Crawford has filled the role admirably, leading the team in hits, runs, and stolen bases, while showing an adequate enough — if still far from outstanding — arm in left field.
I’m not even going to share his stat line, because it’s immaterial after 22 plate appearances — and if I did, we’d have to talk about that .563 BABIP, too — but just consider all the uncertainty about him headed into the year. Would his elbow be healthy? Would his wrist? Was his awful showing in Boston more than just being injured or uncomfortable? Would this be more than $100 million simply flushed down the drain?
I can’t stand here on April 8 and say that we truthfully know the answers to any of those questions, because again, six games. But I will say that Crawford getting off to a good start was perhaps more important than it was for anyone except Luis Cruz, and Cruz has failed badly in that regard. As Matt Kemp struggles, we understand that he’s a great player who had his winter routine disrupted by surgery. If Clayton Kershaw struggled — as though that’s even possible — he gets all the slack in the world, given his history. But if Crawford got off to a poor start, especially with Yasiel Puig already looking good in Chattanooga, you don’t imagine Dodger fans would have given him much benefit of the doubt, and an uncertain leadoff spot would have quickly become a gaping hole wasted on Skip Schumaker & Mark Ellis.
Instead, Crawford’s looked excellent, consistently putting men on for Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, & Andre Ethier. (That they haven’t done much with those opportunities, at least until yesterday, is a separate issue entirely.) An effective Crawford changes the dynamic of this offense considerably, especially considering there’s at least two black holes — three if you count the pitcher, four if the regulars get a day off — being sent out on a daily basis.
Again, it’s only a few games, and whether this is just a small sample size thing or a brief period of health before he inevitably injures himself again remains to be seen. Still, when I did an in-depth examination of him a few weeks ago, what we kept coming back to was how absurdly open his stance was when he was performing badly in Boston, as you can see in this example from April 2011:
When he was successful in Tampa, his stance wasn’t as open and his bat was certainly not at a flat angle, behind his head. Here he is yesterday, and while Pirates righty Chris Leroux partially blocks the view of his feet, you can see both there and in the headline picture above that his bat is at nearly a 45-degree angle.
We’ll see if this is an early season mirage, or if the changes he’s been able to make stick. If so, we’re not going to be talking about the nine-figure albatross that the Dodgers had to eat to get Gonzalez. We’ll be talking about the leadoff man doing a great job setting up opportunities for the heart of the Dodger order.
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