Red Sox fans can be forgiven if they’re not impressed with Carl Crawford‘s performance to date this season. Even after blasting his fifth home run of the season in Sunday’s game against Oakland, his triple-slash sits at an unimpressive .248/.286/.389. Those are potential non-tender numbers, not seven-year, $184 million numbers. Slowly but surely, though, Crawford has made his way towards respectability. Over the last month, the 29-year-old Crawford has compiled a .293/.311/.474 line, beginning a steady march towards the production the Red Sox are paying for.
This aforementioned march to respectability is best presented in visual form:
Ever since the calendar flipped to May, Crawford has been doing just about everything in his power to rectify his early season mishaps. In May, Crawford did it by spraying line drives all over the field. He hit frozen ropes in 22.2% of his at-bats, en route to posting a .301 batting average (and a .352 BABIP, far more in line with his .342 BABIPs from 2009 and 2010) and what should be the first of many above-average monthly wRC+ totals at 117. His success in early June has carried through, as Crawford has a 237 wRC+ so far due to three extra-base hits in only four games.
It’s striking just how similar his running totals are starting to sync up with his career averages right now. First, his BABIP, which threatened to dip below .150 at some points in April:
Second, his isolated power, which although it has never been his calling card it never has been as negligible as it was in April:
Third and finally, his strikeout rate, which was the only part of his game consistent with his days in Tampa:
This leaves but one part of Crawford’s game which has yet to regress over his hot month-and-change: his ability to reach base via the walk:
Between May and June, Crawford has taken all of four walks (and also received two hit-by-pitches) to go with the five he drew in April. Crawford has never been a celebrated walker at the plate, posting a rather pedestrian 5.4% walk rate over his career. But his 3.8% rate to begin 2011 is his lowest since breaking into the majors in 2002, and walk rate does tend to stabilize quicker than most stats.
Although there is still plenty of time for Crawford to put on his walking shoes, it may be time to start asking why. None of his plate discipline stats are markedly different from last year, and he’s actually seeing fewer first-pitch strikes and balls in the zone in general. Maybe he’s just being challenged more in hitter’s counts this year: he’s walking 33% of the time in counts that pass through 3-1 as opposed to 46% of the time last year, and similar differences exist for the other three-ball counts.
If Crawford continues to hit as he has through May and June — making contact and making pitchers pay with it — it wouldn’t be surprising to see opposing hurlers proceed with a bit more caution in hitters counts. As such, the final piece of the Crawford regression should fall into place soon. Within the last week, Carl Crawford crossed into above-replacement territory for the first time since the first week of the season. Don’t expect him to linger around zero too long. The rest of the AL can take note — here comes Carl Crawford.