2012 Projections: Carl Crawford to rebound
Last season was one to forget for Carl Crawford. The four-time All-star never did look comfortable in a Red Sox uniform right from the beginning and a slow start seemed to linger over him like a bad cold all season long. For months Red Sox fans were waiting for Crawford to snap out of his slump and regain his once game changing ways that tormented the Sox for years when he played in Tampa Bay. But it never happened.
There were flashes of brilliance and a couple of walk-off hits that provided a glimmer of hope, only to have Crawford return to his defunct ways. A waste of a season for a man who signed a rich contract that will see him make almost $20 million dollars this season. He barely hit over .250 and his OBP of .289 makes you take a second look to ensure your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. But 2011 is long gone and with the a new season brings new hope. According to the sabermetrics guru Bill James, Carl Crawford is going to have a better year in 2012.
Fangraphs.com is where you can find Bill James’ projections and Crawford will see a rise in all his offensive categories this year. James has Crawford set to hit .286 on the season, an OBP of .332 and a SLG of .436. He’ll hit 15 homers, score 93 times and drive in 73 runs. The most notable and promising projection is his stolen base total of 34 swipes, up from his career low of just 18 last season.
While it’s easy to slough these numbers off and throw the resource under the bus, consider that also on the webpage Rotochamp and the fans predict almost identical numbers to James. To be honest, the fans that submitted projections (34 of them) have Crawford’s offensive statistics higher in every category and a WAR rating of 4.3, similar numbers to his 2009 campaign with the Rays when he was an all-star.
These are merely projections but it is promising to see that everyone is predicting that Carl will have a bounce back year. The biggest factor that could play into Crawford’s resurgence is where he hits in the batting lineup. Recently Bobby Valentine discussed that very topic and while he didn’t commit to where CC would be batting, he did make mention that he will likely play around with the order from game to game and doesn’t believe in a set lineup.
This is bad news for Crawford who is a creature of habit and perhaps maybe more so than others. Last season he was all over the place, from leadoff to second, to sixth and seventh where he spent most of his time. Batting seventh last year, Crawford acknowledged that he wasn’t comfortable and felt he couldn’t use his running game as often. He needs consistency and preferably in a spot where he is comfortable. That spot is either the number two or three hole in the batting lineup.
But there’s just two major problems and their names are Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez who typically round out the first three batters of the game. Then you have Jacoby Ellsbury who settled in nicely to the leadoff role last season. But with his recent power and run producing evolution he may be a better fit at the number three spot.
Crawford doesn’t like to bat leadoff, but if Bobby V can work with him in February and March and get him comfortable, what about a lineup that looks like this:
1. Crawford 2. Pedroia 3. Ellsbury 4. Gonzalez 5. Youkilis 6. Ortiz 7. Scutaro 8. Saltalmacchia 9. Sweeney
Essentially you’re restoring faith in Crawford while not rocking the boat too badly with the others. Youk may not be happy batting fifth but if he can’t stay healthy that’s the least of his problems.
Crawford is most effective when he’s running. His speed is always a threat and we saw it for so many years when he would easily steal numerous bases off of Jason Varitek. That’ what the Red Sox need out of him this upcoming season and if Carl is as committed to rebounding as Valentine says he is, then the top of the order may allow him to do so.
Should Crawford struggle from the outset then he may be forced back to the number six or seven spot in the lineup. How he reacts and what type of numbers he puts up hitting there, well that will remain to be seen.
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