A Pitch F/X Visualization of Allen Craig's Hitting Prowess

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 7: Allen Craig #21 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a double against the Miami Marlins at Busch Stadium on July 7, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Last week Dan Brooks and Harry Pavlidis, the gentlemen behind Brooks Baseball, made an announcement that was at once important and promising. For Baseball Prospectus, they have developed hitter and pitcher profiles using Pitch F/X. The profiles are sortable, color-coded strike zones maps that can be sorted in a myriad of ways and normalized by handedness. For some, the player cards are a black hole of nerdy fun.

Brooks and Baseball Prospectus are also kind enough to make the color-coded strike zone charts free and embeddable. As you know, I love trying to make color-coded charts to help visualize concepts for Cardinals fans. As you can imagine, this turn-of-events is a bit like Christmas in July for me.

I thought we might venture into the new Pitch F/X hitter charts together with Cardinals slugger Allen Craig batting leadoff.

When healthy this 2012 season Craig has been a monster with the bat. Entering play on Sunday, the St. Louis slugger had a .398 wOBA, which would tie him for sixteenth in all of baseball if he were qualified for the batting title. By wRC+, which adjusts for park effect and is scaled to league average, Craig's 155 would tie him for twelfth in the big leagues.

The driving force behind his offensive value has been power. Isolated Power (ISO) is calculated by subtracting a player's slugging percentage (SLG) from his batting average (BA). By removing singles, ISO gives one a better idea of how much a player's SLG comes from extra-base hits (XBH). Craig's ISO in 2012 is a mammoth .286. Here is how that would rank in the majors amongst qualified batters through play on Saturday:

  1. Josh Hamilton, .320
  2. Ryan Braun, .307
  3. Adam Dunn, .307
  4. Mark Trumbo, .305
  5. David Ortiz, .300
  6. Josh Willingham, .299
  7. Jose Bautista, .292
  8. Allen Craig, .286
  9. Edwin Encarnacion, .283
  10. Andrew McCutchen, .274
What does Allen Craig hit well? Just about everything. The first Baseball Prospectus PItch F/X hitter chart is for BA by areas of the zone. Each square area shows Craig's BA and has the number of hits and at-bats. As shown in the whiff chart, about the only areas of the plate (and off the plate) that Craig hasn't covered this season have been high and away and low and away.

How does Craig's zone coverage over his 209 plate appearances this season compare to other right-handed hitters? The Baseball Prospectus Pitch F/X hitter cards also give us a normalized chart. Here's is Craig's BA chart normalized for right-handed hitters. The further above 100%, the higher the rate relative to other right-handed hitters; the further below 100%, the lower the rate relative to other right-handed hitters.

Craig is hitting .297, so it isn't surprising that he would be above-average when swinging at pitches in the various graphed areas. As discussed above, Craig's offensive skill has come from his power. The Baseball Prospectus Pitch F/X player cards also allow us to sort by ISO. Here is Craig's raw ISO card.

The following Baseball Prospectus Pitch F/X player card shows Craig's ISO normalized for right-handed hitters.

Craig's plate coverage so far this season has been very impressive. Oddly enough, he has been below-average on pitches right down the middle of the plate. That being said, he hits for power on pitches down, in, up, and away.

Another fun feature of these Pitch F/X hitter profile cards that Brooks was kind enough to put together is the ability to sort by pitch type as well as individual pitches. Brooks has included four-seamers, sinkers, and cutters in the "hard" category; sliders and curves in "breaking"; and "offspeed" featuring changeups and the like.

Performing these filters on Craig's data for 2012 shows us that he has feasted on fastballs and low breaking pitches. First, Craig's ISO chart for "hard" pitches.

Next, Craig's ISO chart for "breaking" pitches.

Lastly, Craig's ISO chart for "offspeed" pitches.

Before we go jumping to conclusions about Craig's ability to hit fastballs or breaking balls, let's have a look at his normalized ISO charts.

HARD

BREAKING

OFFSPEED

Craig mashes fastballs even when normalized. The normalization chart also brings into stark relief how well he has been able to stay on and drive low breaking pitches this season. Craig's plate coverage and ability to hit low breaking balls with power make him a potent bat in the middle of the Cardinals' lineup. This is a mere snapshot of about 200 PAs, though, and it will be interesting to see if Craig can continue his powerful hitting as the season and his career progress.

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