SAN FRANCISCO Brandon Crawford was hitting .232 with just one home run when he came to the ballpark last July 1. Upon arriving, Crawford found out that he had received 3.6 million All-Star votes, finishing about 300,000 votes short of being voted in as a starter.
"With my first-half stats last year, it would have been a little embarrassing," Crawford said this week, smiling.
Crawford rode a fan-vote wave that helped Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera get starting spots and Freddy Sanchez, who didn't play a game all season, place fourth among second basemen.
This time around, Crawford likely won't need the boost from the ballot-stuffing locals.
Through the season's first month, the 26-year-old is a strong All-Star candidate based simply on what he has done on the field: a .271 average, five homers, 17 runs, 15 RBIs, an on-base plus slugging percentage of .869 and the usual Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop.
"The kid is getting better and better," manager Bruce Bochy said. "His confidence has really grown."
Teammates laud Crawford's work ethic and his desire to bring his bat up to the level that his glove long ago hit. During spring training, Crawford took a tip from minor-league hitting instructor Steve Decker and started holding his hands higher while keeping his front shoulder more stationary.
Crawford said the adjustments have allowed him to keep a shorter approach to the ball, and the results have been easy to see.
"I feel like I'm just consistently hitting the ball harder," Crawford said.
He's also hitting it deeper. Crawford had seven career homers coming into the season but hit five in April. The only major-league shortstop to hit more last month was Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki.
"I figured the power would come a little," Crawford said. "I've never been a guy who tries to hit home runs, but I know I have some power."
The power and improved approach have helped keep Crawford in the lineup on a daily basis after he often sat against left-handers a year ago. Crawford and Hunter Pence are the only two Giants to start every game thus far, and Crawford knows that it won't be long before pitchers take note and start treating him differently.
Then, it will be up to him to adjust again, and the team is confident that Crawford, who spends as much time in the video room as any Giant, will.
Note The Giants' other Brandon is still finding his way a bit, but in the past nine games, Belt has a line of .357 (batting average)/.438 (slugging percentage/.714 (OPS). It's a small sample size, to be sure, but so was his season-opening slump.
Belt had another huge hit Wednesday, hitting a three-run homer to lead the Giants to a 9-6 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Before the game, Belt stood at his locker and talked at length about how he felt close to getting on one of the torrid tears that tend to follow his slumps.
"I feel close," Belt said. "But I'm definitely not as consistent as I need to be."
Belt has 11 hits in 33 at-bats this season from the seventh inning on, with two homers and 11 RBIs. He has three game-winners in the past 10 days. In what Baseball-Reference calls "late and close" situations, Belt has an OPS of 1.037.