Craig crushes lefties as Pujols' replacement

Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

Albert Pujols is gone, but Allen Craig has been producing in his absence.Remember when Allen Craig came through time-and-time again for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 World Series? He had the game-winning hit in Game 1, a go-ahead hit in Game 2, and notable homers in both Game 6 and Game 7.

Perhaps that was some foreshadowing for life without Albert Pujols.

The Cardinals (who face the Pittsburgh Pirates on ESPN on Wednesday night) have gotten near-Pujols levels of production from their combination of first basemen this season. Craig has been the latest and most significant part of that. After his home run and three RBI in Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Reds, he’s now batting .318 with 20 home runs and 71 RBI this season.

Craig has homered on 19 percent of the fly balls he’s hit this season, and his rate of home runs to fly balls is better than any season Pujols has had in 2010, 2011 or 2012. In 60 games at first base (the most of anyone on the Cardinals this season), Craig is hitting .326 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI.

Where Does Craig Excel?

Craig has crushed left-handed pitching this season, posting a .386 batting average with eight home runs and 21 RBI in 101 at-bats. His 1.149 OPS against lefties is fifth best in baseball, and he will face a lefty on Wednesday (Wandy Rodriguez). Craig has also been a well above-average hitter against right-handed pitching, with a .288 average and .518 slugging percentage.

Cardinals 1B vs Albert Pujols - 2012 Season

His knack for the big hit has not left him in 2012 as well. He’s batting .409 with seven home runs with runners in scoring position this season, and his .409 batting average ranks best among those with 100+ plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

In addition, 10 of his 20 homers have come with men on base.

Craig is one of baseball’s top hitters against fastballs and fastball variants (cutter, sinker, etc). His .369 batting average and 1.090 OPS in at-bats ending in those pitches rank in the top 10 in the majors (minimum 250 PA this season). His .672 slugging percentage ranks third behind David Ortiz and Matt Kemp.

Pittsburgh is a team Craig has enjoyed facing, as he’s batting .388 with a 1.106 OPS against Pittsburgh for his career.