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Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Carl Crawford streaking back to Tampa


Carl Crawford
Crawford
Carl Crawford returns to Tampa Bay for the first time since leaving the Rays in the offseason to join the Boston Red Sox. After hitting .155 in March and April, Carl Crawford is batting .303 since May 1.

Nearly all of his improvement has come against right-handed pitchers. He’s hitting .367 (40-for-109) vs righties since May 1, after hitting .148 (9-for-61) against them in April.

He is still struggling against lefties. He hit .167 (6-for-36) against them in April and is even worse since May 1, hitting .152 (7-for-46).

Let’s break down his improvement vs right-handed pitching:
More solid contact. In April, just 15 percent of his balls in play against RHP were line drives; since May 1, that rate is up to 25%. His groundball percentage has also decreased from 53% to 45%.

Handling inside pitches. In April he had one hit in 17 at-bats (.059) ending on an inside pitch from a righty. Since May 1, he is hitting .476 (10-for-21) on those pitches. Three of his five home runs since May 1 have come on inside pitches from right-handers.

Better on breaking pitches. In April, he was 0-for-16 in at-bats ending on a curve or slider and missed on 23 percent of his swings against those pitches from righties. Since May 1, he’s hitting .333 (9-for-27) and has missed on only eight percent of his swings on those pitches from righties.

Crawford is still struggling in some areas this season. He’s hitting .159 against left-handed pitchers and averaging a walk every 30 PA, sixth-worst in the AL (min. 50 PA).

But he’s helping the Red Sox with his ability to get clutch hits. He has four hits in the seventh inning or later that have given his team the lead, tied for most in the majors, and his six game-winning RBI are tied for the most on the team.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Crawford has yet to find his running game since joining Boston.

Crawford didn’t run less early because of his hitting struggles -- in March and April he attempted six steals, just as many as he’s attempted since May 1.

One aspect that is particularly puzzling is Crawford’s lack of attempts against AL East teams. Playing his full career in the AL East, it’s no surprise that 46.4 percent of his attempts have been against teams from that division.

With Tampa, Crawford attempted a steal once every 2.4 games against the AL East. In 23 games against division opponents this season, Crawford has run four times, (once every 5.8 games).

Joining the Red Sox may have been a poor decision for Crawford’s success rate too. Of all the teams Crawford has played at least 10 games against, his highest success rate on steals is against Boston, at 93.9 percent.

Crawford has 62 steals against the Red Sox in his career and has only been caught four times. Crawford has been caught four times in just 12 attempts this season.

-- Dan Braunstein and John McTigue contributed