The Dodgers made the blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox on August 25th receiving four players in the deal. The common consensus was that that the center piece of the trade was all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The other three players were considered afterthoughts. While that is true somewhat, the Dodgers didn’t just get one all-star in that mega deal, they got two. One of those players, Carl Crawford shined bright in the national spotlight during the Dodgers NLDS victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Crawford never played with the Dodgers last season, and only played in 31 games all season, needing season ending Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. Crawford was ready by spring training, but the Dodgers were apprehensive because of his history of injuries.
Crawford battled injuries, extreme age and rustiness during the entire 2013 regular season, forcing the Dodgers to handle him with kid gloves. He only played in 116 games, and missed significant time with hamstring, back, and elbow issues. Crawford still hit .282 (123 for 435). But the rest of his production declined considerably. Crawford’s OBP dropped to .329, his OPS was .736, and he hit just six home runs, and drove in 31 runs in 469 plate appearances. All those numbers were well below his career averages. The 32 year old outfielder once hit as many as 19 in a season. After hitting four home runs in April, Crawford’s power disappeared, as he only hit two more the rest of the regular season. Crawford’s speed also disappeared, as he stole just 15 bases all season. Crawford used to average nearly 50 a year with Tampa Bay. His walks are also at a career low with just 28 free passes all year long.
Most consider Crawford a good outfielder as well. The numbers seem to confirm this. Crawford’s defensive runs above average were in the positive with a +8, and a .977 fielding percentage with only four errors is nothing to scoff at. Crawford’s career defensive metrics say he is a solid outfielder. Not great, but good. Crawford’s WAR at one point was at 6.9 back in 2010. (According to Baseball Reference). Since then he hasn’t been above 2 wins, and this season was registered at 1.7. If you are interested in WAR. So what happened with Crawford?
It seemed Crawford’s best days were behind him. The outfielder has been injured for the last three seasons, and playing hurt seemed to have taken a considerable toll on his rusty rickety body. It seemed, I said it seemed like Crawford was unable to stay healthy, and unable to hit and throw. However I always felt like there was still a great player underneath all of the injuries, and rustiness. Somewhere within that rickety shell of a body was the great player with Tampa Bay. How did the Dodgers bring the good Crawford out?
Well they rested him. Mattingly gave him at least one day off per week, and would often sit him against lefties. It wasn’t ideal, but it was something that helped. Because Crawford got off to a hot start, batting .307 (28 for 91) with four home runs in April. pus a solid May hitting, .278, (25 for 90), although no power with only one home run. Then he got hurt, as his rust flared up again. He only played in one game in June. He had a terrible July, and was still hurt and rusty. He batted just .225 in July. Then he got healthy and hot in August, hitting .302 (32 for 106). Then he tapered off a bit in September finishing with a .267/.286/.413 line in the final month of the season.
But Crawford came up huge for the Dodgers in the division series. We might forget that Crawford has a ton of postseason experience from his days with Tampa Bay. Crawford hit .345 (10 for 29) in the 2008 ALCS with the Rays, and batted .263 with two home runs in the 2008 World Series. Crawford has been here before.
It started out a bit rough though, as Crawford went 2 for 9 in the first two games, leaving three men on base, and whiffed for the final out in Game 2. He turned it up a notch and then some for games 3 and 4. In game three, Crawford was 2 for 5 with three runs scored, and three runs driven in. His three-run home run gave the Dodgers the lead. In game 4, he was 2 for 3 with two solo home runs, and two runs driven in. All together in the final two games of the series, Crawford was 4 for 8 with three home runs, and five runs driven in, and five runs scored. All total Crawford hit .353 (6 for 17), and posted a line of .353/.421/.882, with an OPS well over 1.000 in the NLDS. Crawford hit three home runs in the series with five runs driven in. Hanley Ramirez may have been the MVP of the series, but Carl Crawford was the Dodger catalyst.
Let’s also not forget Crawford’s great leaping catch against the wall of Brian McCann’s long drive to left in the opening game. Plus his amazing running grab while tumbling into the stands in game 3. Crawford is just one of many heroes from the Dodger’s magical 2013 season.