A lot of ink and keystrokes have been used over the awful start by Carl Crawford in a Red Sox uniform. After signing a massive seven-year contract worth $142 million, Crawford is being booed by the Fenway faithful less than three weeks into the season. Coming into Tuesday night’s games, the leftfielder was hitting just .133/.175/.167 in his first 63 plate appearances. A year after topping 60 extra base-hits and 40 stolen bases, he had just two of each through 14 contests.
Thus far, Terry Francona has moved Crawford around in the lineup and given him a day off to try and jumpstart his new toy; however, nothing has worked. Truth be told, no change in lineup or day off will cure what ails Crawford. As Jonah Keri would say, only time will.
If you’re a regular reader of Fangraphs.com, you already know this. That said, even the most knowledgeable followers of the game can get sucked up in the sample-size tidal wave. Crawford’s current streak is horrific. He has been the worst offensive player (.159 wOBA) in the major leagues by quite some margin. The good news for Boston fans is it will not be this way all season.
Crawford has dug himself a sizeable hole, but not much has changed about his hitting profile. In terms of discipline rates, he is walking less than normal (3.2% vs. 5.4% career) and striking out slightly more than his career total (16.7% vs. 15.4% career). Meanwhile, both are small sample sizes and still right in line with his career numbers.
A low number of walks has never been a problem for Crawford because he has always hit his way on base. Here is where we have a huge problem. When looking at batted ball types, Crawford’s current LD, GB, and FB rates are pretty close to where he ended last season. On the other hand, his BABIP is an absurdly low .160. It is pretty safe to assume that this number will come close to doubling by the end of the season.
The first set of stats that tend to stabilize pretty quickly are swing related. Again, Crawford is not doing much differently here, either. His percentage of swings on pitches outside the zone is within reach of his career rate. He is also making contact at a similar rate and is actually whiffing less than usual. The one change that sticks out is his swings in the strike zone.
Crawford’s swing rate is down around 6% overall. It is down more than 10% on pitches in the zone. This could explain some of his problems considering he is making good contact when he does swing in the zone. Perhaps he is just not seeing the ball well right now or simply guessing incorrectly, but he is not offering at pitches that one would think are hittable pitches if they are falling within the four quadrants of the strike zone.
There are certain things Crawford will always struggle with. Left-handed pitchers and pitches in the dirt are a few of those things. On the other hand, making contact, getting on-base, and wreaking havoc once he does are not. After following “CC” for nearly a decade, these types of streaks are not uncommon. Had this streak come after a 15-for-20 start to the season, it would not be as big of deal. But with new money comes new pressure and expectations. It is frustrating to watch. It is downright ugly, actually; however, at some point he will turn back into the old Crawford.