Maybe I am alone in this, but it feels like MI is painfully thin in ottoneu leagues this year. I know MI is always a bit shallow, but this year just seems like we’ve taken things to another level. I have no explanation for that but, particularly in the original league, it seems our auctions of late have been a litany of MI we know provide almost no fantasy value (mixed in with the regular dose of reliever-chasing).
And one of the players on that list is currently the most auctioned player in all of ottoneu – Brandon Crawford. For those of you looking to add a MI – replacing an injured Jose Reyes, grabbing a backup to fill in a game or two here and there, or just desperate for games played at the position – Crawford’s torrid spring and only-slightly-cooler start look awfully appealing right now, don’t they?
And yet there is a great desire to channel Dennis Green and scream, “He is who I thought he was!” But every year players turn a corner and Crawford is still only 26 so…maybe?
Crawford has long attracted attention for his glove work, but this spring he posted a Ruthian .375/.423/.609 with three HR. Three HR might not sound like a lot, but Crawford set a career high last year with four HR on the season. So three in a month is a pretty spectacular improvement.
In a conversation with Eno Sarris, Crawford mentioned that his spring was really an extension of last year – “I progressed in the second half and carried that into the spring.” Sure enough, in the second half last year, Crawford put up a .260/.327/.370 line, up from .240/.286/.335 in the first half. A .697 OPS is nothing special, but it certainly plays as a MI option in ottoneu – you could certainly do a lot worse. For a guy who had neither an OBP nor an SLG over .300 in 66 games in 2011, that second half was awfully promising.
The shift wasn’t fueled by a rise in BABIP (.312 in the second half vs. .303 in the first), although his .228 mark in 2011 does help explain why that was such a poor season. Instead, the change seems to be in batted ball mix, and perhaps in how hard he makes contact.
Here are Crawford’s batted ball rates for 2011, the first and second half of 2012, and the (admittedly brief) start to 2013:
|2012 1st Half||23.0%||45.9%||31.1%||1.6%|
|2012 2nd Half||22.4%||49.0%||28.7%||7.8%|
There actually is a pattern forming there – in addition to a nice jump in LD rate moving into 2012, Crawford has been consistently dropping his FB% in favor of more liners and grounders. His career BABIP by batted ball type: .125 for FB, .210 for GB, and .698 for LD. So the shift away from FB, especially if he can bring that LD rate back up to 2012 levels, suggests a higher BABIP than he has had in the past. Maybe not the .344 he has so far this year, but there might not be cause to regress him all the way back to where he was last year – a slight uptick from 2012 is possible if he can get back to a LD% closer to 22 while keeping his FB% below 28.
In addition, Crawford’s 7.8% HR/FB% in the second half last year represents a pretty sizable jump – definitely from the first half of the year, but also compared to his 2011 numbers. And that may not be a pure fluke. In 2011, Crawford’s average distance on HR and FB was 270.8 ft. In the first half of 2012 (prior to July 1), that plummeted to 259.6. After July 1 he was up to 278.0. Adding 20 feet per fly ball will most definitely help your HR numbers. 2013 so far does not tell us much (there are 8 records in the database for Crawford HR and FB), but his distance is at 264.6 so far.
What does this all mean? Well, probably not a ton. 2013 is barely underway, and to assume that Crawford has suddenly become a middle-of-the-lineup bat based on a decent second half, stellar spring, and strong first two weeks is probably a bit much.
I wouldn’t look for even double digit home runs – realistically the upside here is another career high in HR (say 5-6) with a .265/.335/.380 line (just besting his 2012 second half), but not much more. And more than likely, Crawford is going to post something closer to .250/.310/.360 (which would still represent a nice step forward for the SS).
But if you are as MI-hungry as I am, Crawford at least offers some reason to believe, and there are worse options being used in ottoneu leagues as we speak. There are a lot of big ifs here, but IF he can get that LD rate back up over 22% and IF he can keep the FB rate down under 27.5% and IF he can show batted ball distance above 270 or – even better – 275, well, that may just be a guy who can fill a meaningful role on an ottoneu roster.
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