After being traded, changing leagues and posting his worst major league season of his career, a reasonable person may ask why on earth I’d be buying Allen Craig. His current .237/.291/.348 equates to a brutal 81 wRC+ and he’s still on the disabled list to boot. We can address the DL issue first, as the Boston Red Sox may activate him as soon as Friday. With that out of the way, on to the (potentially over the top) optimism!
The 30-year-old first baseman/outfielder’s rate stats are clearly way off, however many of his peripherals appear to be in line with his career averages.
Clearly the biggest outliers are Craig’s BABIP and ground ball rate. After never hitting grounders more than 45% of the time, this season he is burning worms at the 12th highest clip in baseball. The shift in batted ball rates can be better seen by his career 1.53 GB/FB ratio versus his 2.34 this year. Perhaps most curiously — at least to a nerd like me — is given what we know about ground balls and BABIP, Craig could be reasonably expected to hit for a higher batting average (and a lower slugging) given the rate he is burning worms.
Displayed below is the batted ball splits (for batting average) for Craig. For context I ran the 2010-2014 league averages through a weighted mean calculator with AVG and AB as the weights and values.
|Lge Avg 2010-14||.341||.328||.293|
Pulling the ball tends to serve hitters well and for his career, Craig is no different. On top of pulling the ball, he also goes the to the opposite field and to center with better than average results. In fact, since 2010 Craig’s .367 AVG going the other way rates as 27th best in baseball and his .360 AVG to center ranks 70th (minimum 300 PAs). Diving in a bit deeper into the batted ball splits it does seem Craig has pulled the ball less frequently this season.
We try not to glance at BABIP alone, shrug, and say “oh, he’ll be fine.” That being said, Craig doesn’t appear to be swinging at everything and what he does swing at, his contact rate this year is actually higher than his career average. From what the stats can tell us, Craig has been unfortunate when pulling the ball or hitting it up the middle. His ground balls have eyes,it’s just rather than sneaking through the infield they seem to be finding their way into gloves. I don’t expect that trend to continue for the rest of this season nor next year. Craig is available in 40% of both Yahoo! and CBS formats as well as over 55% of ESPN leagues. I’m buying him for help at my outfield but he can be plugged into 1B/CI as well. Count on his average coming around and him becoming very useful for these last seven+ weeks. Fenway should work out nicely for Craig as I expect him to hit doubles off the monsters and given how frequently he hits the opposite field, maybe even a triple or two to right-center field.
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