It feels not too long ago (11 days, to be exact) that we were talking about Allen Craig, then still looking for his first home run and mired in a .261/.298/.352 slump, and what his loss of power meant to the St. Louis Cardinals.
How quickly things can change in MLB, eh?
Good news, Cardinals fans — the team’s clean-up hitter is officially back, and back with a vengeance.
Though the cleaner narrative would say that the turn of the calendar month really changed things for the 28-year-old, the truth is that the breakout was rumbling and waiting to happen even in the final days on April, with a four-game hit streak in the final weekend of the month that was snapped on the final day.
Still, there’s no denying his May numbers. With a .357/.419/.679 triple slash, Craig has hit in all but one of the seven games he’s played in the month, and managed to get on base with a walk even in his hitless game on Wednesday. That streak includes hit first three-hit game of the season, a 3-for-5 performance on May 3, as well as a 2-for-5 outing just two days later that added his first triple of 2013.
More importantly, however, is the fact that the power has finally emerged, with a pair of homers coming within the first seven days of the month. Both were of the solo variety, but that’s really hardly a complaint considering that he’s already leading the team in the counting numbers category with 26 RBIs.
The 1.098 OPS streak moved his season number to .757, a far cry from the .655 he ended April with.
Unsurprisingly, much of his success has come hand-in-hand with improved plate discipline. After striking out at 18.8 percent in April (about career levels) but walking an uncharacteristically-low 3.0 percent, Craig has started to turn that around too with a strikeout rate of 16.1 percent in May to a 6.5 percent walk rate.
That’s more than doubled his BB/K ratio (0.40 in May, 0.16 in April) and to sustain success, he’s going to have to keep it up.
Then again, with a 34.8 percent line-drive rate (compared to 19.5 in April), the first baseman probably isn’t thinking about drawing walks most of the time these days — not when he’s seeing the baseball like a beach ball, anyway.