Last night in the Twitter-sphere, I had a short but interesting conversation with Chip Buck. (Who you can check out at both Fire Brand of the AL and It's About the Money. You should all check him out.) We were discussing Carl Crawford's improvement. Though it has been a very small sample size, it seems that Crawford is finally settling in, giving the Red Sox the production they expected when they signed him to the 7-year, $142 million contract.
First of all, let's take a look back at just how bad Crawford performed in the month of April. In the month, he hit just one home run with four RBIs, while posting a triple-slash line of .155/.204/.227. According to people I hear that are close to the team, he was putting a lot of pressure on himself to perform to his contract. I am not around this team, so I can not say for sure that this is true, but some statistics help that thought process ring true. The one that I would point to the most is how much better he has performed on the road versus at Fenway Park. He has all four of his home runs so far away from home, and is hitting 46 points higher in ballparks not known as "Fenway."
In the month of May, we have started to see some major improvements, especially in the last week or so. In this month so far, Crawford has hit three homers with 15 RBIs, along with a much improved triple-slash line of .333/.359/.535. These numbers are a lot closer to what was expected based on his career numbers (.295/.335/.442). There are a couple of reasons for his improvement.
One reason is that his batting average on balls in play has improved at a ridiculous rate. In the first month of the season, it was clear that he was a bit unlucky, and that his numbers had nowhere to go but up. An average BABIP is considered to be around .300, and after one month of play, Crawford's was at a measly .177. Now, in May, that number has risen to a high rate of .385. Based on these numbers, he has gone from incredibly unlucky, to very lucky. So, expect his average to level out somewhere in the middle of where is has been in the two month, like, perhaps, his career rate of .295. One surprising thing I have noticed about the splits is that his strike out rate has actually increased, while his walk rate has decreased in the month of May, and both are not in line with his career numbers. So, while his BABIP may suggest his average will go down, his career numbers suggest that, throughout the season, the Red Sox should expect less strike outs and more walks out of Crawford.
Crawford has been making better contact this month as well. First of all, this can be seen easily by seeing he has hit three more home runs, and six more extra-base hits. If you look more closely at his rates, this is a product of hitting more line drives. In April, he hit a line drive just 14% of the time, while hitting a fly ball 38% of the time. Then, when you look at the month of May, his line drive rate is up to 21.3%, and his fly ball rate has dropped to 27.5%. All of these things point to Crawford playing towards his career numbers. In April, his numbers were far below those numbers. In May, those same numbers have been a touch above his career numbers. Because of this, I think it is a fair assumption to say he should end up right around there.
The Red Sox offense has looked fantastic as of late, and Crawford has spent the last three nights in the six hole. In these nights, he is 9-13 with two home runs, seven RBIs, and six runs scored. A lot has been made of finding the right spot in the lineup for their offseason acquisition, and is seems that Francona may have finally found that spot.