Sunday, April 28, 2013
2013: A more selective Carl Crawford?
By Mark Simon
Carl Crawford homered twice on Sunday, and with 100 plate appearances behind him for 2013, this seems like a good time to look at different aspects of his performance.
Crawford is trying to get back to being the player he was with the Tampa Bay Rays. The previous two seasons were hindered by ineffectiveness and eventually reconstructive elbow sugery.
Let’s go through a few important parts to his game in 2013.
He’s chasing less
Crawford has regularly been a free swinger, but in 2013 he seems to be more willing to let pitches out of the strike zone go without a hack.
He’s seen nearly 200 so far this season and has gone after them at a rate of about once every five pitches (21 percent).
That’s a considerable difference from Crawford, even when he was going well in Tampa Bay. His chase rate over the previous four seasons has typically hovered at around 35 percent.
Crawford has also been very discerning when it comes to pitches on the outer-half of the plate, or just off the outside corner, as the “chase rate” numbers are very similar to his overall numbers.
His first homer Sunday came on a pitch on the outside edge, his third homer against an outer-half pitch this season. He totaled five homers against those pitches over the previous two seasons.
He’s been a first-pitch masher
The other thing about that first home run is that it came on the first pitch he saw from Kyle Lohse. Crawford hit .426 in the first pitch of at bats in his last two seasons with the Rays. That dropped to .258 in 2011 and 2012.
This season, Crawford has started hot against first pitches. He is 8-for-11 against them with a triple and a homer.
He’s been comfortable against the offspeed pitch
Crawford’s second homer Sunday came against an 0-2 slider from Lohse, the third time this season he’s hit an offspeed pitch out. Crawford is 16-for-42 (.381 batting average) against offspeed pitches this season.
That includes 13 hits in 26 at-bats that ended with an offspeed pitch in the strike zone. He's swinging more often than usual against those pitches and letting more of the out-of-zone ones go by.
What to watch for: Defense
Crawford rated as one of the game’s best defenders statistically from 2008 to 2010, but did not put up good defensive stats in 2011 and 2012 and is best remembered for being unable to handle a line drive on the final play of the 2011 Red Sox season.
Earlier in the week Crawford had a couple of dicey defensive moments against the Mets, pulling up short on one fly ball that hit the outfield wall, and failing to corral an important line drive in the ninth inning in another instance.
But so far, the early returns on his defensive stats have been respectable. He entered Sunday with only one other play judged a “Defensive Misplay” on video review this season.
Crawford, who averaged 10 Defensive Runs Saved per season from 2008 to 2010, has been credited with one so far in 2013.
Justin Havens also contributed research to this post