Allen Craig's numbers for 2014 are not very pretty. He certainly did not come into the year hoping to hit .221/.276/.357, good for a .282 wOBA and a wRC+ of 78. Those numbers are clearly very poor and looking at those numbers in isolation paints an inaccurate picture of the way Craig has been playing over the last month after a forgettable first few weeks of the season. The hits and outs and struggles for Craig matter, and his first few weeks will keep his overall numbers down for some time, but looking back at this past month gives much more confidence looking forward.
On April 14, 2014, Craig was hitting .122/.178/.122 through 45 plate appearances. That date has little overall significance, but is the date I wrote about Craig's struggles to get the ball in the air.
Craig has been unable to hit the ball with any authority. Craig's 84.4% ground ball rate is leading the majors as is his ground ball to fly ball ratio of 13.5. While his walk rate of 4.5% is not great, he is close to one walk away from his 7.0% career average. His plate discipline has not been an issue.
Since that post, Craig's ground ball percentage is 50%, not too far off from his career average of 45.4%. For line drives, he is hitting a healthy 20%, fairly close to his career average of 23.2%. A good number of his fly balls have gone for homers, as he is now sitting at 17.4% compared to his career average of 14.8%. Here are those numbers as well as walk and strikeout percent for his career compared to April 14th and beyond.
Most of his numbers fit within his career averages. In a results based game it helps for the batted ball data to line up with the rest of his numbers. At the time of the post mentioned above, Craig's rest of the season ZiPS projection was .274/.328/.434. His line from April 14th going forward in 107 plate appearances is .263/.318/.455, good for a .340 wOBA and a wRC+ of 117. A .297 BABIP, off his career numbers by about 40 points is holding his numbers down slightly. Given his solid batted ball profile, normal plate discipline, and an isolated slugging percentage ten points higher than his career average, Craig has probably been slightly unlucky over the past month.
Craig is hitting the ball with more authority. In addition to an increase in slugging, Craig's balls have traveled a greater distance in April than they did last season. He has seen a thirty feet increase in April when compared to last year. Look at Craig's overall numbers to get a sense of how much or little he has contributed to the Cardinals' cause this season, but do not look at those numbers to determine how well or poorly Craig has been hitting recently. His overall numbers do look bad, but for the past month, Craig has been very close to the same above average hitter he has been since he joined the Cardinals.
The walks, strikeouts, line drives, and perhaps most encouraging, the power have all come back for Craig over the past month. After six weeks, two bad weeks can ruin a stat line. Allen Craig's poor two week period happened when it receives the most notice, right at the beginning of the season. Craig may never return to his career year form of 2012, but he is still an above-average hitter who has not been in a slump over the past month.