2011 has not been the year we had hoped for from Carl Crawford. I'm sure he would agree. Whether it's been the pressure of a new contract, a new city, eroding skills (perish the thought!), bad luck, or a combination of all of the above, Crawford has been, to put it charitably, not good. His bad start has colored Boston's public perception of him as a ball player. He was already behind the proverbial eight-ball when he showed up on the first day because of the numbers in his contract, but his play hasn't made anyone forget his salary.
In fact, his play has probably magnified public awareness of his large salary (you don't hear people talking about how much Adrian Gonzalez is making). Like is so often the case, public perception can be set in concrete based on a few events. Has Crawford's awful first month obscured what has been an otherwise productive season? Are we all missing the forest for the dead and decaying trees of Crawford's April? Is this all over blown, a product of anti-Crawford hype based on his first month with the team? Maybe.
Let's take a look at how he's done by month. I should say before we look at the stats, I'm not including defense here. There are two of reasons for this. First, Crawford's stats in Fenway's left field are going to be weird because the metrics just haven't figured out how to deal with the oddly shaped space. Second, and more importantly, I don't think a month of defensive stats tells us anything at all.
Also note I understand monthly splits are arbitrary beginning and end points. But since this is called Crawford By Month, I hope all of you in Readerland will go along with the premise. Thank you.
April: .155/.204/.227; 104 PA; 22 OPS+
First off, I apologize for bolding that.
We all know that Crawford got off to a bad start. OK, really bad start. Fine, horrendous hellfire and rapture end of the earth type start. It's hard to hit as ineptly as Crawford did in April and keep your job. Mostly it's just hard to hit that badly over a 100 PA stretch. Crawford's April BABIP was .177 which A) shouldn't surprise you having seen his batting average and B) indicates likely some extent of unluckiness. Having actually watched Crawford in April -- something I hope can be scrubbed from my memory by some yet uninvented future machine -- I can say anecdotally that he hardly ever hit the ball hard. The batted ball data backs this up as Crawford had a Line Drive Rate of 14%, 6% lower than his career average.
May: .304/.328/.482; 116 PA; 126 OPS+
May exhibited the production John Henry was paying all that money for. Crawford hit for average and power if his on-base skills weren't quite up to snuff. He hit three homers this month, the most of any month this season. Ideally he'd get on base at a .350 or higher clip but then Crawford has almost never been that guy. His walk rate was bound to fall some after he left Tampa. In any case, May didn't cancel out April, but it was a step in a right and productive direction.
June: .278/.298/.463; 57 PA; 112 OPS+
This is a step backwards from May, but the power production was still there, even though we're talking about a small sample. We're doing so because June was the month Crawford got hurt. He missed almost an exact month of the season, playing his last pre-DL game on June 17th and his first post-DL game on...
July: .250/.308/.292; 52 PA; 69 OPS+
...July 18th. Crawford's injured hamstring may still have some lingering effects though after a month on the DL you'd hope they would be minimal. July wasn't a return to April, but it was a decided step down from May. Crawford did steal four bases (getting caught once) and post his highest monthly walk rate on the season to date. So you know... *sigh*
August: .270/.308/.421; 67 PA; 94 OPS+
Another small step in the right direction, but...
It looks like we have three distinct periods here. The first, April, was Crawford, as colleague Marc Normandin put it, trying to earn his whole contract by hitting six run homers each time up. That didn't work. Surprising, I know. Second, we have May and June, a time Crawford approximated the production the Red Sox were expecting from him. If Crawford hits .280/.330/.450 with great defense the Red Sox will take that all day every day, and that's almost what he did in this phase. Then he got hurt, which brings us to the third period, post-DL Crawford. Post-DL Crawford isn't as bad as April Crawford, but he's not particularly good either. I looked at the last week or two weeks and there isn't much of a hint of a turn around. But then lots of times the turnaround just happens so, you never know.
We've still got almost two weeks left in August so there is time to for improvement. But more importantly, if Crawford has strong September and a big post-season nobody is likely to care about the man's April.
In any case I think we can see that yes, his April was horrific, but it's not like he's been setting the world afire independent of that either. We may have to wait until 2012 for the Real Carl Crawford to show up in Boston -- sometimes real improvement requires the distance only the off season can provide -- but one way or another it's important to note this one season doesn't delete Crawford's previous body of work. This is a good player who has had a very tough year. A few bad months hasn't changed that. At least not yet.