Allen Craig's punchless pulling

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Punchless pulling is one of the more troubling developments in Allen Craig's weak offensive performance.

Allen Craig has not hit very well during the first 83 games of the 2014 season. Early in the season, VEB's Craig analyzed how the Cardinals' Craig was hitting a very high number of grounders. Later, Joe broke down Craig's trouble on inside pitches. Watching Craig roll over on grounders to the left side of the infield at Coors Field last week, I wondered if these problems might be connected. Put otherwise: Is Craig having problems turning on the ball with power?

First, we need a baseline. How often to MLB batsmen pull the ball? And, what type of offensive numbers typically result when a big-leaguer pulls a pitch?

Through play on Saturday, righthanded MLB batters had pulled the ball in 27.17% of their plate appearances ending in a ball in play on the season. They hit the ball up the middle 55.06% of the time and to the opposite field in 17.78% of their balls in play. In 2013, the percentage share breakdown for righthanded hitters was much the same: 26.75% pull rate; 55.52% up-the-middle rate; and 17.73% opposite-field rate.

Not surprisingly, MLBers hit for the most power when yanking the baseball to their pull field. This season, righthanded batsmen have pulled baseballs to the slash line of .396/.393/.698. Isolated Power (ISO) is a stat that removes singles from SLG and thus isolates extra-base hits. Righthanders have posted an ISO of .302 when turning on the ball during this season's first half. In 2013, righties hit .391/.389/.690 when pulling the ball, with a .299 ISO.

Craig first broke into the majors in 2010. From Craig's debut through the end of 2013, he pulled the ball in 26.86% of his PAs, hit it up the middle 57.74% of the time, and went the opposite way 15.39% of his balls in play. Craig pulled the ball right around the MLB average, hit pitches up the middle a bit more often than average, and went the other way with a pitch slightly less often than average.

Craig's hit distribution has changed in 2014.

Through Saturday's game, he had pulled the ball 22.75% of the time, a drop of about four percentage points from his career rate entering the season. Craig knocked the ball up the middle 54.12% of the time, a drop-off of over three and one-half percentage point. Craig has hit the ball to the opposite field in 23.14% of his balls in play, an increase of nearly eight percentage points.

Even more dramatic, however, have been Craig's results on the balls he puts in play and pulls. The following chart contains Craig's batting stats on pulled balls for each of his MLB seasons.

ALLEN CRAIG ON PULLED BALLS IN PLAY (2010-14)

Year

PAs

HR

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

2010

25

2

.320

.320

.680

1.000

.360

2011

45

5

.523

.523

1.000

1.523

.477

2012

101

8

.490

.485

.890

1.375

.400

2013

110

4

.391

.391

.618

1.009

.227

2014

58

0

.345

.345

.397

.741

.052

Craig has had some success when pulling the ball. After all, he has a .345 BA. But he has hit for virtually no power whatsoever to his pull field, which is a marked change from his previous seasons in the majors. Craig's inability to pull the ball with authority is one of the driving factors in the former slugger's continuing and worsening power outage.

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