Player profile: Carl Crawford

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Crawford celebrating with his Rays after defeating the Red Sox in game seven of the ALCS (Icon/SMI)

Had I written for The Hardball Times a year ago, Carl Crawford would have been an excellent candidate to be hooked up to “The Meter;” his past four seasons would have looked like this:

+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM       | AB  | BA    | HR | RBI | R   | SB |
+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2004 |  22 | Devil Rays | 626 | 0.296 | 11 |  55 | 104 | 59 |
| 2005 |  23 | Devil Rays | 644 | 0.301 | 15 |  81 | 101 | 46 |
| 2006 |  24 | Devil Rays | 600 | 0.305 | 18 |  77 |  89 | 58 |
| 2007 |  25 | Devil Rays | 584 | 0.315 | 11 |  80 |  93 | 50 |
+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+

But then last year, as most of you know, Crawford was a major fantasy disappointment, posting the depressed line below:

+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2008 |  26 | Rays       | 443 | 0.273 |  8 |  57 |  69 | 25 |
+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+

It was Crawford’s worst full season of his career, the result of injuries and some bad luck, which we will talk about in more detail later.

Much debate always seems to swirl around Crawford concerning his value based on where he is selected, but for now let’s put that issue aside and see what we can expect of him in 2009.

Power

Crawford’s power potential is legendary. Once expected to be realized by many, only the stubborn seem to believe he still possesses the potential to hit 20 home runs in a season. Although Crawford has already played in seven MLB seasons, during the 2009 season he will only be 27 years old, an age when most hitters start to hit their peak power years. With that in mind, let’s see what True Home Runs think of Crawford’s power potential.

If you’re new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I’m using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player’s talent, so it’s well worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.

+------+-----+------------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM       | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | OF FB% |
+------+-----+------------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+
| 2006 |  24 | Devil Rays | 600 | 18 |  14 |    13 |     10 |     10 |     27 |
| 2007 |  25 | Devil Rays | 584 | 11 |  16 |     8 |     11 |     11 |     31 |
| 2008 |  26 | Rays       | 443 |  8 |  15 |     7 |     14 |     14 |     28 |
+------+-----+------------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+

It appears that Crawford was the victim of some bad luck the past two years with his home run totals. Simply looking at his home run totals and home run per fly ball percentage (HR/FB), one would think that Crawford has been losing power ability the past few seasons. Interestingly enough, tHR’s contradicts that claim and says Crawford should have actually been hitting home runs at a higher rate in the past two seasons.

I see no reason for Crawford’s HR/FB percentage continuing to stay in the single-digits, and given his age and hopefully improved health a HR/FB percentage in the 12 to 15 range seems likely. Hitting 30 percent fly balls with 12 percent going for home runs over a full season’s worth of at bats results in a projected 17 home runs. Believe it or not, that is the low-end projection. If he increases his home run rate to 15 percent of his fly balls, then the projected total rises to 22 home runs.

Twenty home runs from Crawford would surprise most people, but Crawford certainly has the ability to hit that many and I think he has a good chance of reaching that mark.

Contact

+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM       | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | xBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| 2006 |  24 | Devil Rays | 600 | 0.305 | 0.300 |  86 | 0.332 |  0.334 |  18 |     29 |      37 |
| 2007 |  25 | Devil Rays | 584 | 0.315 | 0.308 |  81 | 0.375 |  0.355 |  20 |     43 |      29 |
| 2008 |  26 | Rays       | 443 | 0.273 | 0.325 |  86 | 0.301 |  0.344 |  21 |     48 |      26 |
+------+-----+------------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+

Crawford had never struggled to post a .300 average before 2008, and it is pretty apparent that his anomalous .273 average was the result of some poor BABIP luck. Assuming a return to his previous BABIP level of about .330, Crawford’s batting average would shoot up to .307.

Also affecting his average would be the increase in HR/FB percentage projected before. Adding in the home run rate tHR predicts raises his expected batting average to .327, right about what his True Batting Average (tBA) suggests.

+------+-----+------------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM       | AB  | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+------------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2006 |  24 | Devil Rays | 600 |  86 |        103 | 0.43 |          91 |       65 |
| 2007 |  25 | Devil Rays | 584 |  81 |        108 | 0.61 |          85 |       59 |
| 2008 |  26 | Rays       | 443 |  86 |        106 | 0.48 |          88 |       67 |
+------+-----+------------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

Taking a look at his plate discipline stats, we see Crawford has above average judgment and is pretty much average everywhere else. His plus batting average is more the result of his high BABIP than great plate discipline and since these stats should remain relatively stable in 2009, they should not affect his average too much from his tBA.

Even though it would be a career high, expect Crawford to hit for an average in the mid to low .320s.

Speed

Steals are Crawford’s most dominant category, as he swiped at least 50 bags four of the five seasons prior to 2008. Last season, though, Crawford stole a measly 25 bases. As I briefly mentioned in the beginning of the article, injuries had something to do with it. Much of his August and September were lost to a finger injury, and if we extrapolate his totals to make up for the lost playing time, he now steals 10 more bases, bringing his total to 35.

It should also be noted that throughout much of July, he was hampered by a nagging hamstring injury. If we take his stolen base rate for April, May, and June—the three months he was not affected by injury—and project that out for the full season, Crawford would have stolen about 40 bases in 2008. On the surface, it seems we should not be too worried about Crawford’s speed totals in 2009.

+------+-----+------------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM       | AB  | SB | SBA | SBO%  | SBA% | SB% | FAN SPEED | FAN BALLOTS |
+------+-----+------------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
| 2004 |  22 | Devil Rays | 626 | 59 |  74 | 0.243 |   45 |  80 |        92 |           9 |
| 2005 |  23 | Devil Rays | 644 | 46 |  54 | 0.236 |   33 |  85 |        94 |           9 |
| 2006 |  24 | Devil Rays | 600 | 58 |  67 | 0.256 |   40 |  87 |        91 |          13 |
| 2007 |  25 | Devil Rays | 584 | 50 |  60 | 0.254 |   38 |  83 |        91 |          32 |
| 2008 |  26 | Rays       | 443 | 25 |  32 | 0.253 |   26 |  78 |        90 |          57 |
+------+-----+------------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+

His Fan Score agrees that he still possesses great foot speed, and although I have not run any tests to prove a correlation, I would consider it promising that defensive metrics (RZR, OOZ, UZR/150) rated him especially high in 2008, a sign that he will retain his quickness.

Looking at the above chart, we see that Crawford attempted to steal at lower percentage than previous years (SBA%) and I would expect that number to bounce back at least partially to its previous level. With the expected increase in BABIP, Crawford should be put into more stealing opportunities (SBO%), leading to more stolen bases. As long as he remains relatively healthy in 2009, Crawford should accumulate at least 40 stolen bases with the potential to reach 50.

Final thoughts

Now that we have a pretty good idea of what Crawford will do for owners in 2009, the question remains, is he worth it?

Sneaking a peek over at Mock Draft Central, we see his current ADP is 29, down from 15 a year ago. Clearly people have a lack of confidence in Crawford as he has dropped from the top tier of outfielders into the second one. Ichiro Suzuki, Nick Markakis, Carlos Lee, and Alfonso Soriano are some of the outfielders in that second tier along with Crawford and looking comparatively at the stats some of the others project, Crawford emerges as the best value of the pack.

If I am going to take an outfielder in the third round, Carl Crawford is going to be the guy I select.

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Comments

  1. Chris said...

    Players with good speed tend to have higher BABIP…I agree, his HR totals should be higher, probably in the 12-15 range. I’m relatively bullish on Crawford in 2009, especially with another season of Longoria in the lineup!

  2. Phil said...

    I am in an OPS(instead of AVG) league, so i stay away from Crawford.  I’ve never liked him fantasy-wise, always thought he’s over-hyped.  But a guy that gets 40-50 steals and doesn’t kill your avg. is rare, so I guess that’s where the hype comes from. 
    Soriano, Lee and Markakis bring more HR and RBI’s, and thus more power in my league.  However in an Avg league I would have a hard time going Crawford over those guys.  My 2 cents.

  3. Jason said...

    Really nice article.
    I’m really stunned how negative PECOTA is on Crawford this year. I understand that it is fooled by injuries. I understand that tHR identifies hidden power potential PECOTA wouldn’t see. But every BABIP projection system would identify Crawford as a clear bounce-back guy, he’ll be batting second behind an improved lineup, and he’s 27. Meanwhile, over at BP, the 75% percentile line still doesn’t have him cracking a .290 BA, and the 25% percentile line of .260/.306/.379 sounds like an altogether different player. Again, I understand how this might play into the large Collapse Rate, but could someone please explain why PECOTA is seeing the other side of a Bell Curve and not a simple down-year? Thanks.

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