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Kapler's right: Crawford deserves to be real NL MVP candidate


Every manager, every coach, every teammate and every fan has implicit bias. It's impossible not to. In this case, Gabe Kapler's bias also is correct. 

The Giants' manager believes Brandon Crawford should be a legitimate NL MVP candidate, and he has every right to say so. 

"He should be right in the conversation," Kapler said Monday night to reporters. "He's just been good on both sides of the ball all year long. Very consistent, very dependable, driving the ball, extra bases, singles, big moments -- he's come up huge for us time and time again.

"I'm biased, I see him every day but I definitely think he belongs in this conversation." 

Kris Bryant rightfully stole the headlines in the Giants' 7-5 win over the New York Mets after going deep twice. Yet it was the 34-year-old Crawford who received MVP chants from his hometown crowd. 

Seen as an afterthought at the plate much of his career, Crawford continued to bring more global warming to the fog-filled San Francisco with his red-hot bat against the Mets. Crawford went a perfect 4-for-4 with a triple in the win. He raised his career-high batting average to .306, which ranks sixth in the NL. 

Crawford tried his best to tune the chants out as they rang true throughout Oracle Park. His only focus was on helping the Giants get another win. The Mountain View native is human, though. It's impossible not to hear the ultimate sign of respect. He once was a Giants fan himself, likely chanting the same three letters for Barry Bonds and other greats. 

"It's obviously nice to hear," Crawford said regarding the MVP chants. "It's not something I'm ever thinking about while I'm playing the game. But obviously, I mean, we have the best fans in baseball. To hear stuff like that obviously is a nice feeling." 

Bias aside, now we must ask how does Crawford compares to the other top NL MVP candidates? With apologies to Trea Turner, and yes, Buster Posey, let's take a look at Crawford's numbers along with three other candidates. 

Crawford (98 games): .306/.371/.547, 19 HR, .918 OPS, 144 OPS+, 4.1 bWAR

Fernando Tatis Jr. (89 games): .299/.377/.673, 33 HR, 1.050 OPS, 186 OPS+, 5.4 bWAR

Max Muncy (102 games): .274/.406/.558, 26 HR, .964 OPS, 161 OPS+, 5.4 bWAR

Bryce Harper (97 games): .297/.414/.567, 21 HR, .981 OPS, 167 OPS+, 3.6 bWAR

Look, the NL MVP race likely comes down Tatis Jr.'s health. If his shoulder can withstand right field, he likely runs away with the award. He has been that good this season, also stealing 23 bases. But if he can't stay healthy down the stretch, this remains a wide-open contest with Crawford in the thick of it all. 

On pure numbers alone, Crawford's aren't the most impressive of this uber-impressive group. Voting has turned into more of an analytics game, breaking down the numbers to the last decimal point. When it comes to "most valuable" though, we have to add some context. 

Muncy is the next-oldest guy of this group behind Crawford. The Los Angeles Dodgers' powerful utility man is 30 years old. He turns 31 later this month on Aug. 25. Tatis is just 22, and Harper somehow still is only 28. Crawford turns 35 next January and still plays the majority of his team's games, and at a premium position.

The Giants enter Tuesday with the best record in baseball at 77-42. That gives them a .647 win percentage. They're 64-34 in games that Crawford has played, good for a .653 win percentage.

Crawford's resurgent first half was good enough, giving him his third trip to the All-Star game. However, as the Giants have continued to separate themselves from the Dodgers and San Diego Padres, Crawford only has been better and better at the plate. He's now batting .400 with a .960 OPS in 13 games this month. Since July 1, Crawford is batting .427 with a 1.055 OPS in 28 games.

The Giants are 20-8 in that span of games.

RELATED: Unselfish Giants already exceed preseason win projections

Coming into Tuesday, the Giants are four games ahead of the Dodgers and 11 games ahead of the Padres in the NL West. Harper is doing what he can for the 61-57 Philadelphia Phillies, but they're 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and have 16 fewer wins than the Giants. 

Every vote counts. Crawford might not take home the trophy in the end. Don't get it wrong. He'll remember the chants, he'll remember the standing ovations and he'll remember proving so many wrong while playing for what matters most: A third World Series ring. 

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