A Matter of Millimeters – Brandon Crawford

I was happy to get two hits yesterday, given the skid I’ve been on. But I’d rather have an 0-fer and win than get a bunch of hits and lose.

I started the year so well at the plate, then the hits just stopped coming. You try everything to figure out what you’re doing wrong. I’ve put videos ofmy swing from the past week side-by-side with my swing from the first few weeks. My mechanics are exactly the same.

I was particularly stumped by a fly ball I hit recently to left field for an out. An identical swing on an almost identical pitch resulted in an opposite-field home run last month. What was the difference? I saw it on a slow-motion replay. On the home run, the ball hit the bat square. On the fly ball, it hit a few millimeters off center. A fraction of a fraction of an inch. That’s how thin the line is between success and failure at the plate.

The toughest part of going through a slump is maintaining your confidence and keeping a consistent mental approach. Hitting is all about that. The thing is, almost any kind of swing can be successful. Look at Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. They have completely different swings,but they’re both good hitters.  And they’re both confident in the swings they have, so it works for them.

I think maybe there are certain times when I’m trying to do too much instead of just seeing the ball and hitting it like I was earlier. Maybe I’m overthinking what the pitcher might be throwing.Or I’m trying to pull the ball in certain situations instead of just staying up the middle.

During the game, your teammates aren’t going to offer too many suggestions. They’re busy with their own stuff. But the other day in batting practice, Buster said I was pulling my front shoulder off the ball a little bit. So I tried to incorporate that into my batting practice, keeping the shoulder closed and putting the ball up the middle or the opposite field.

I never lose my confidence on the field. Even when I was getting criticized early last season for errors, I didn’t lose my confidence because I have no doubts about defense. If you can play defense in the minors, you can play at the Major League level. A ground ball is pretty much a ground ball.But hitting in the Major Leagues is different from the minors because the pitching is better. It’s an adjustment. It takes time to develop the same sense of invincibility at the plate that you feel in the field.

A blog reader asked about “the weird pad’’ on my left hand when I’m batting. I think he’s talking about the thumb guard (see the photo). A lot of guys wear them. It keeps the handle of the bat from sinking into the webbing between your index finger and thumb. I think it makes for a quicker bat. And you don’t feel the sting as much when you get jammed. I’ve been using it my whole pro career.

Then when I get on base, I take off the thumb guard and gloves and put on a different thumb guard. I sprained my thumb at the beginning of last year so I wore it all season to protect it when I slide headfirst. This year I jammed the thumb again putting down a tag at second on Carlos Gomez, so I’ve put the thumb guard back on.

A follow-up from the previous blog post. We ended up not going to Sea World in San Diego. One of Jalynne’s nieces was sick. So we walked along the coast to Seaport Village with the dog and the stroller. It was great – and we didn’t have to pay $150 or whatever to watch a sea otter show that Braylyn won’t even remember.

It was also great to go back to our new home in Arizona when we played the Diamondbacks. The best part was sleeping in my own bed. My bed in Arizona is a lot more comfortable than the one here. The bed here is the same cheap one we bought when I was called up from the minor leagues. It might be time for a new one.

A few thoughts on the Dodger series and our tendency to play close games. I think it was Hunter who said we’re addicted to one-run games. We do our best to make sure it’s a one-run game whether up by a lot of runs or down by a lot of runs. That Saturday game, we were up 5-0 and thinking maybe we’d make it 10-0. Then all of a sudden we’re losing and have to come back and win 10-9.

Flan jokes that maybe it has something to do with the yin/yang, fiery/laid-back pairings in our batting lineup. You start with Pagan and Scutaro, then Pablo and Buster, then Hunter and either me or Belt, then Blanco and either me or Belt. It’s an interesting observation, isn’t it?

OK, I’ll be late to the park if I go on any more. Let’s hope for a better game today than the first two against Philly.

crawford

-Brandon C.

19 Comments

Thanks so much for posting!

Do you remember the first person recognizing you as a giant or the first time you were asked for an autograph

I enjoy reading what you write. I think you and your wife are very good together. You are right that Braylyn will not remember the Sea Lion Show at Sea World at this age. Get the better bed it is well worth it. I am finally sleeping through the night again after years of doing so due a crummy bed.
Great job. Keep up all of the hard work. I have faith that when the time for putting away opponents to win the Division. The Giants will do it & you will be a key part of it.

Thanks for the update Brandon. I think you are hitting pretty good. I didn’t look it up, but I don’t think you are striking a whole lot. It’s just that some of your shots are finding gloves. But talk to the coaches. I always tell young basketball players starting out, “there is a lot of politics in basketball.” I’m sure that is true in any sport on any level. Talk to the coaches. I confess that I was one who questioned your skills early last year, it seemed like you were having trouble going to the right and not fleet enough to make the great plays behind second base, but you definitely convinced me that you flash the leather with the best of them and you have a exceptional throwing arm. But you know, I would have thought that the big strong and practiced guys in the majors would hit the ball very sharply so it would get on you a little quicker that in the minors and fielding would be a little more difficult in the majors. I really learned something there, however. Ok, I’m gonna get out of the way and let you read and hear from another one of your fans. The game you guys won tonight just ended in the10th inning so I know everyone is trying to respond to your post. Thanks again for the update. Really enjoy and appreciate it. Go Giants!!!

Hi Brandon! Do you get stopped or recognized a lot by fans in the bay more so now? Or even in other cities? Thanks for the update! :)

Congrats on an exciting win today! I think you guys like to keep us on the edge of our seats!

Great blog! Do you rent house in Bay Area? Great win today. Go Giants Go Niners and go UCLA.

Thx again for writing this. I wonder re your swing vs hits would a couple centimeters one way or the other of where the pitch comes across plate make the difference. This sounds trite even to me but maybe it’s not noticeable yet makes the difference. Plus our biorhythms are different everyday I’m a bodyworket n massage therapist so I’m aware of our subtle but powerful daily changes in such things. Just some thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question about “the weird pad” Brandon! I had asked my brothers who are my usual go-to guys for any baseball questions I have, but they weren’t sure what it’s function was. BTW – I’m a she, not a he! So glad you guys were able to prevent the sweep today. Good luck against the Braves – I’ll be there in person with my sister on Mother’s Day cheering you all on. Keep on doing what you do! New question: Can you predict what pitch is coming next based on the position of the catcher behind you? Or is he out of your field of view?

Interesting comment you made about the difference between playing defense and hitting. Playing defense is not that much different in the majors than the minors, but hitting is much more challenging. I have always believed that defense is more important for an individual player than offense. Regardless of whether you bat .248 or over .300, you are going to save more runs from being scored than any other shortstop. To me that is the most important element of your game. Your writing is excellent also. I know you hear this repeatedly, but being able to read what you write makes a huge contribution to my enjoyment of Giants baseball. Please keep on contributing with your pen, as well as your glove and your bat!

Love your blog, Brandon. I have to say, though, that I was shocked when you said you were sleeping on a crappy old bed. Dude! Sleep is so important to your performance. You’ve got to get a new high quality bed. For sure it will help you at the plate!

I think you are doing great. What was Metallica Night like? You guys are killing me with the one run games and come from behind victories. Keep doing what you are doing, Brandon, you have the right attitude, a real pro at your craft. Thanks for being you!! I am appreciative of your outstanding defense and the bats will follow. You were a walking highlight reel for the first two weeks with the bat!

Thanks for your insights on hitting. I can really only relate your thoughts using golf. If your form is good based on your video review, then you’re good to go in my opinion. Just see it and hit it knowing your form is good. Personally, I practice as perfectly as I can in practice and then during the round rely on feel and vision. I would imagine a fastball coming in at 95mph doesn’t give much time to think about mechanics anyway.

It’s been awesome watching you hit so well. Looks to me like you’re much better at picking the pitch you want to swing at this year. I’m sure that’s a hard thing to do considering the quality of pitching like you mentioned.

Try meditating with a bat in your left hand and a ball in your right hand. You started off the year hot because you were getting that extra millimeter that you need on the bat, and now you’re missing it, and it might be because you have developed a 2-d mental image of “ball” and “bat.” If you sit with them, not moving, but touching and looking at them, just for half an hour, before you go to sleep, you might get a better intuitive 3-d understanding of the physical reality of your work-tools. It works for other stuff, maybe it will work for baseball? Give it a try if you want.

Brandon! Thanks again for continuing with this blog! Yeah! A new mattress will most definitely be worth the money you spend! So much of baseball is mental but as you say staying within yourself is key. I have complete faith that you will have a good year with the bat because you are patient and have a good eye. The hits will fall in. And your glove work is truly beyond compare! Glad you, Jalynne and the little one had a great time in San Diego. It is really a lovely city. Would move there if it wasn’t so far away from AT&T!! Good luck today against the Braves and that was an awesome outing by Matt last night! Yeah!

I am late in reading this post and the last couple of games have most likely made you feel more positive. As a fan of the Giants since the day they came to SF I have been through more losing than winning seasons and my loyalty to the team has never been any stronger than it is now. It’s the players as people as well as athletes that I admire and respect. I am the kind of fan that chooses to focus on what a player has done for my team as a whole instead of picking him apart if he has a less than stellar performance.
You Mr. Crawford have done a huge amount for this team and you will continue to do so. We needed a great shortstop for a frustratingly long period of time and then you came along to save us. In my opinion we finally have a shortstop that is worth supporting in good times and not so good times. You have done some amazing things as a SF Giant and I look forward to you being out there every game and you have been!
You are going to go through games when you aren’t hitting perfectly, you are going to make some throws that don’t go the way you wanted them to-that’s the nature of the game. But you are a exceptional shortstop and athlete and you have impressed many with your talents.
You are wearing a number that has been handed down from one of my number one all time favorite Giants and you deserve it!
How can we ever forget that day in May 2011 your major league debut and the Grand slam that helped us defeat Milwaukee that day?! Only a handful of players in history had ever had a hit like that on their “first day at work” that’s incredible!
You won a special place in the heart of this fan that day- a place that you secured as I watched you take the time to pose for pics with fans in Scottsdale this February.
The pictures of the 2012 Championship Parade showed many players as couples and they were all sweet but the picture of you and your wife was so genuine it really stood out. You are a San Francisco Giant, you are living the dream you grew up with, enjoy it. You deserve to be a part of this team so don’t beat up on yourself. Nobody is perfect all the time but the fact that you strive for it, that you really care, it shows!
My folks are elderly and I had to relocate from my Bay Area home to Yuma AZ after 54 yrs in 20111- it really makes me feel better knowing that some of my team also make their home here. Hearing you say that you are “homesick” for AZ really made my day! :)

Brandon, thank you for taking the time to write this blog. It means a lot to your fans to know something about your life off the field as well as on. Please get yourself a new mattress! I know youngsters like yourself sometimes don’t think about these things like mattresses but a good night’s sleep is important to your performance and over all well being. Yeah I sound like your mom. Actually I feel like your mom when you come up to bat. I cross my fingers and try to send you positive energy. I hate it when you come up with 2 outs especially if there are runners on. Just remember that the whole batting thing is as much mental as anything. I know it’s hard to keep positive when the game is going south but you’re a superb athlete living the dream you had even as a little boy. I missed this blog entry somehow and we have now suffered through 2 miserable games in Toronto. I can’t help but think the artificial turf had something to do with all the problems in the field. It was awful to watch and I’m sure miserable for you to play through. But it’s over and now on to the Rockies. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys play at least close to home in Oakland on the 27th. GO GIANTS!

How about make S.F. home? Just wonder why most of your teammates decide to have home outside of S.F.?

BC-

I wish you could even take it in how many fans like myself think of you as one of the best defensive SS’s we’ve seen. It’s so great to see your bat coming along! I’m a 50 yr old with two 20 year old sons from Utah that cheer you on everyday. Don’t waver ever CONFIDENCE is all you ever think! Go G MEN!

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