Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Brandon Crawford vs. LHP

Much has been made in the local media about Crawford's better hitting against LHP than RHP this season, how he has a much higher batting average vs. LHP than RHP.

ogc thoughts

It is easy to forget, but baseball skills don't really reveal themselves over small sample sizes.  For example, BABIP for a hitter is only considered after three years worth of hitting.  This period of proof is made even longer when you split the data up into LHP and RHP.  So quoting what a player is doing vs. arm thrown is pretty useless in-season, other than to note that he is currently better on one than the other, but that does not mean that it would necessarily hold for the season.  So I dug around in his stats to see what could be said about his hitting handedness.

Unfortunately, his minor league splits are not available, but if you look at the full-season ones, he basically has hit equally well against LHP as RHP, on a season by season basis, so LHP don't have the strong negative split for Crawford that LH hitters often has, he has hit both equally well, roughly, though slightly better RHP, natch.

Looking at his MLB splits, it appears that his great 2014 is just making up for a poor 2013 for LHP, and for RHP, it appears that he's having bad luck there, as a counter.

Against RHP, Crawford had roughly .300 BABIP in 2012-2013, but he's only at .248 in 2014.  His contact rate is really low, 74% after 81% in 2012 and 84% in 2013, though his BB/K ratio is about where it was before.  Plus, because he's hitting for a lot more power, his batting line vs. RHP is roughly the same between 2012 and 2014, .661 OPS vs. .650 OPS.

His career contact rate is 82% so he appears to be a little more swing happy in 2014, which could be a result of him trying to hit for more power, resulting his his much higher ISO of 156 in 2014 vs. 125 ISO in 2013 and 112 ISO in 2012.   I would expect him to swing back towards .300 BABIP in 2015 for RHP, while retaining some of that power improvement.

Against LHP, Crawford had .346 BABIP in 2012, .245 BABIP in 2013, and currently has (to July 22nd games) .388 BABIP, which I would attribute to SSS when dealing with LHP, and a regression to mean from his poor 2013 season for BABIP vs. LHP.

His contact rate has actually gone up, from 71% in 2012, to 74% in 2013, and basically 74% in 2014, while his BB/K ratio has gone up with each season, from 0.24 to 0.32 to 0.58 (vs. RHP it has vacillated, from 0.40 in 2012, to 0.52 in 2013, to 0.46 so far in 2014).  And his ISO has exploded (again SSS):  71 in 2012, 89 in 2013, 218 in 2014 (don't expect that to continue, but do expect it to improve on 2012-13, I think).

And lo and behold, here are his numbers for his career:

vs. RHP:  .241/.310/.363/.672, .279 BABIP, 81% contact rate, 0.52 BB/K, 122 ISO
vs. LHP:  .238/.306/.353/.659, .309 BABIP, 72% contact rate, 0.35 BB/K, 125 ISO

And that hews to what he did over several seasons in the minors, he hit LHP roughly as well as he did RHP (though slightly better RHP).

So I think it's safe to say that Crawford is one of those rare LH hitters who can hit LHP almost as well as he does RHP.   He has done it in the majors as well as the minors.  And for some reason, he seems to hit better in terms of impact against LHP than RHP, as he has a higher BABIP there, though, again, SSS says that we should trust this number much less than his RHP numbers, so that is more of a hope than a probably happening.

Still, I think his overall batting line, which has risen steadily from 2012 to 2013 to 2014, most likely will continue to rise again in 2015, his 28 YO season, as he should be reaching his physical peak somewhere around the next season or two.  His RHP #'s should go up and his LHP should go down, but his overall numbers should improve again, I think, as he consolidates his hitting lessons of the past few seasons.

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