Back on May 5th, Bernie Miklasz wrote a Bonus Bytes post titled: "A closer look at Allen Craig's struggles." As usual, it was a very good post, filled with thought-provoking data and analysis. One month later, Craig appears to be picking up his performance at the plate (which is a obviously good thing), but after receiving a suggestion from fourstick, I decided it was the perfect time to revisit one aspect discussed in the post by Miklasz—Craig’s performance against fastballs in 2014, in comparison to his overall career performance. Let's first take a look at his career numbers to set a reference point and then narrow it down to his 2014 performance.
Craig Batting Average on Fastballs in His Career:
As you can see at the top of the heat map, I set the filter on BrooksBaseball to include only fastballs (FA = fourseam, SI = sinker, FC = cutter) for this discussion. The area of focus for the rest of the post is the zone boxed in yellow (the ten hitting zones that constitute "inside fastballs). For his career, Craig is hitting a respectable .306 (123 for 402) on inside fastballs. Considering he has been dubbed "The Amazing Whacker Guy" from some fans and even teammates, it is understandable that he has had success against fastballs over the course of his five-year career.
When pitchers go to their fastball, 41.03% of them land in the inside zones. Thus, pitchers have obviously attacked him there in the past, but how does it compare to their approach in 2014? We will get to that when I take a look at Craig's 2014 heat map.
Since batting average tells only part of the story, especially in a player who has a decent amount of value rooted in power, I decided to look at Craig isolated power heat map against fastballs as well. For his career, he has a .176 isolated power on fastballs in this zone. According to Fangraphs, an ISO of .180 is considered "above average," so .176 isn't eye-popping by any means, but it is acceptable.
Craig Batting Average on Fastballs in 2014:
Based on career numbers, Craig has basically been an above-average hitter on inside fastballs. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case so far in 2014. Craig has had 66 at bats end on fastballs in this zone this season, and he has just 11 hits. A .167 batting average is not very good, no matter how you slice it. Pitchers (and outfielders) have taken note of this as well because the rate of fastballs in this zone is significantly increased from his career average. As I stated above, 41.03% of fastballs landed in this zone in his career. Well, so far in 2014, 48.24% of fastballs have fallen into this zone—a seven percent increase. What about his isolated power on fastballs in this zone? In short, it's virtually non-existent. Even Pete Kozma's career isolated power map has some punch to it, when looking at fastballs alone.
In all honesty, I do not know what has happened to Craig's performance against fastballs so far this season. There have been many theories out there from his bat being slower, his base being hampered by injury, etc. Also, it may be because he has had only 66 at bats end on fastballs in this zone meaning it will eventually normalize, but there is a good chance that this is not the case, either. One thing I do know is that division rivals know opposing hitters much better than non-divisional opponents. For the sake of overall team success, I hope Craig is able to improve on inside fastballs going forward.