|St. Louis Cardinals – No. 21|
July 18, 1984 |
Mission Viejo, California
|Bats: Right||Throws: Right|
|April 8, 2010 for the St. Louis Cardinals|
(through 2013 season)
|Runs batted in||247|
|Career highlights and awards|
Allen Thomas Craig (born July 18, 1984) is a Major League Baseball (MLB) first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. Drafted from University of California, Berkeley, in 2006, Craig has played for the Cardinals since his MLB début in 2010. Besides first base, he has also spent significant time playing right field and appeared at every position except pitcher, catcher and shortstop. Craig has shown remarkably increased production with runners in scoring position (RISP). In 2012, he posted a .400 batting average with RISP. The next season, he raised that figure to .454, the third-highest average of all time.
Early life and amateur career
Allen Craig was born in Mission Viejo, California, to Ron and Kim Craig and raised in Temecula, California. He has one younger sister named Kendal. His parents had moved to the Temecula Valley in the 1970s so that Mr. Craig could secure employment with the Rancho California Water District. In addition to relocating from Mission Viejo in Orange County to Temecula in Riverside County after Craig's birth, the family shifted residences multiple times before finally settling in Temecula.
Always passionate about sports, Craig's father was an early voluteer to help build the baseball fields that became the Ronald Reagan Sports Complex near Chaparral High School in Temecula. As soon as he was able to swing a baseball bat, his parents entered him into the national Tee Ball division of Little League Baseball where his father coached and his mother served on the board of directors. While participating on the 14-and-under USA Baseball team, he played games in Venezuela. At Chaparral High School, Craig was a two-sport standout athlete in baseball and basketball. As a senior in 2002, Craig was recognized in both sports. He earned first team all-league and all-valley honors in basketball while setting a school record with 94 three-pointers. In baseball, he was named All-Valley Baseball Player of the Year. At the Riverside All-Star Game, he earned the Most Valuable Player (MVP) accolade. His .585 batting average and eight home runs helped energize Chaparral to the Southwest League title. That summer, Craig played for the USA Junior National team, batting .485 with 11 runs scored in their effort to earn a bronze medal at the IBAF World Junior Championship in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
After high school, Craig attended the University of California, Berkeley, and was a four-year starter for the California Golden Bears baseball team at all four infield positions. Primarily playing shortstop as a freshman, he posted a .353 batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP). He earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for February 4–10, 2003, after his 7-for-17 (.412) effort with two doubles, a grand slam and five RBI at San Francisco February 4 and versus Loyola Marymount. Applying more time at first base in his sophomore season, Craig batted .285, led the team with 29 bases on balls (BB) and aggregated 19 multi-hit games. He was an honorable mention for the Pac-10 all-academic team. The next year, Craig started largely in left field, batted .308 overall, and batted .338 with RISP. Against Washington State, March 22–24, 2005, he put together a 7–13 series (.538). One month later, on April 22, Craig collected three hits in three at-bats and two days later went 4–4, both games against USC. Craig was an honorable mention for the All-Pac Ten baseball team and again for the academic team. His career batting numbers at UC Berkeley included a .308 batting average, 27 home runs and 108 runs batted in (RBI).
During his off-season playing time at UC Berkeley, Craig played two campaigns for the Alexandria Beetles (Minnesota) of the Northwoods League (NWL), a collegiate summer baseball league. Craig spent most games at shortstop but also contributed in the outfield, at third base, and first base. His first season was in 2003, after his freshman season at UC. He batted just .229 in 15 games in which his playing time was cut short by injury. He returned in 2005 after his junior season and put together a landmark NWL season that included a 21-game hitting streak. In 49 games, Craig hit .362 with 12 home runs, 17 doubles and 40 RBIs. Craig was named first-team shortstop for Baseball America's 2005 College Summer All-America team.
Draft and minor leagues (2006–12)
The Cardinals drafted Craig in the eighth round of the 2006 draft (256th overall) and signed him for $15,000. He showed power at all levels of the Cardinal farm system, hitting 76 home runs in a three and one-half season span between 2006 and 2010 that comprised the bulk of his minor league playing time. In the Florida State League in 2006, he posted an adjust on-base plus slugging at 26% above league average. His 21 home runs in a league with humid air and large ballparks brought notice as one of the top minor league hitters. Baseball America ranked him as the number 15 prospect following the season. Each season from 2007 through 2009, Craig progressed from the high-A level to AAA and participated between 119 and 129 games while hitting at least .304 with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs.
Although for a time Craig appeared to play adequately at third base, his throwing motion raised questions whether he could play there in the Major Leagues as he was promoted through the minor leagues. With David Freese one step further up the Cardinals depth chart and having the better-regarded glove, Craig was shifted more to the outfield in 2009. He further increased his versatility by playing first base. Despite the defensive transitions, Craig's hitting remained steady as he posted a .921 on-base plus slugging percentage with the AAA Memphis Redbirds that season. His consistent hitting and increased positional coverage prompted Craig to be named Cardinals system Player of the Year. The Cardinals added him to their 40-man roster that November.
After making his Major League début in April, 2010, Craig spent significant time on the Cardinals roster that year. He amassed 83 games at Memphis, batting .320 with 14 home runs and 81 RBIs for .549 slugging percentage. The next two seasons, he made a total of 19 appearances at Memphis, Springfield and Palm Beach, accumulating 20 hits in 69 at-bats with four home runs and 14 RBIs.
St. Louis Cardinals (2010–present)
Allen Craig made the Cardinals big-league club out of spring training in 2010, and appeared in his first MLB game on April 8. He started in right field and went 0–4 at the plate against the Cincinnati Reds. Craig hit his first home run on July 19 off the Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Kendrick. His second home run came on August 22 in the Cardinals' 9–0 drubbing of the San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito. One month later, he hit his third home run in a 7–1 Chicago Cubs on September 24 in support of Adam Wainwright's bid for his first 20-win season. In 44 total games in 2010, Craig saw 124 plate appearances (PAs), batted .246, hit seven doubles and four home runs with 18 RBIs.
By 2011, it became apparent that Craig was able to hit major league pitching as well he had in the minor leagues. However, the situation was less than ideal for him to realize regular playing time. In June, after batting .336 with 23 RBIs in 107 at-bats, he suffered a small knee cap fracture against the Houston Astros by running into the wall tracking a fly ball in right field. The team placed him on the disabled list (DL) with an expected intermission of about six weeks. Besides the injury, Craig's lack of a natural major league position presented a roadblock that led manager Tony La Russa to declare him a "starter who isn't starting." Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday each already occupied corner positions first base, left field and right field – positions Craig was best suited to play. The healing of the fracture stagnated throughout the season, however, and swelling persisted around the knee, slowing his rehabilitation. Nevertheless, he regularly strengthened the muscles around his patella and was cleared to play after passing a battery of medical tests. He also spent extra time warming up his knee before each game. After his return, Craig hit .290 in 35 games. Craig ended the regular season with a .315 batting average, 15 doubles, 11 home runs, 40 RBIs, and a .555 slugging percentage in 75 games and 219 PAs.
The Cardinals made the playoffs that year. Craig struggled in his first ten games covering 21 plate appearances against the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series (NLDS) and the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), collecting just three hits in 17 at-bats. However, he delivered the go-ahead pinch-hit single in Game 6 to send the Cardinals to the World Series.
He debuted in the World Series with a two-out go-ahead single off Texas Rangers' pitcher Alexi Ogando's fastball in Game 1. The next night, La Russa again summonsed Craig to pinch hit against Ogando. This time, he lined a 96 miles per hour (154 km/h) fastball to right field to break a scoreless tie. On that single, he joined Dusty Rhodes, Del Unser and Hal McRae as the only players to collect pinch-hit RBIs in three consecutive postseason at bats. He also joined Duke Snider and Amos Otis as the only hitters with the go-ahead hit in the sixth inning or later in consecutive World Series games. Further, Craig became the first player with two go-ahead RBIs as a pinch-hitter in World Series play. After hitting a home run earlier in Game 7, he caught the last out of the Series, helping to secure the eleventh World Series championship for the St. Louis Cardinals. He also tied a World Series record Kiki Cuyler and Hank Greenberg shared with three game-winning RBIs. For the series, Craig appeared in all seven games, collected five hits in 19 at-bats (.263 batting average), three home runs and five RBIs for a .737 slugging percentage. His knee cap still had not fully healed, so he elected to have surgery to repair the fracture the following November.
Despite his strong 2011 performance and World Series exploits, new manager Mike Matheny assigned Craig the role of utility player in the outset of 2012, with the likes of veterans Berkman, Carlos Beltrán and Holliday already stationed at first base and in the outfield corners. Further, Craig spent all of April on the disabled list (DL) recovering from knee surgery. However, when he returned to play May 1, the Cardinals designated outfielder Erik Komatsu for assignment to make room, and Craig found a windfall of playing time with Berkman now on the DL. After hitting five home runs in a seven game stretch, injury quickly struck again when he pulled a hamstring in a game against the San Francisco Giants on May 18 and landed back on the 15-day DL. To that point, Craig made a convincing argument for forcing his way into the starting lineup with a combination of top prospect Matt Adams' slumping and hitting .373 with a .424 on-base percentage and .765 slugging percentage in thirteen games.
Craig was back in action on June 1, and three days later, his tiebreaking two-run home run against the Mets allowed the Cardinals to end a five-game losing streak with 5–4 win. In a stretch from June 9–21, he encountered a rare slump as he batted just .175 with one home run in 11 games. However, Craig discovered that pitchers were throwing him more sliders. Over the next nine games through July 3, he solved his opponents' strategy, batting .364 with five HR and 15 RBIs in nine games. His season total to that date included appearing in just 40 of the Cardinals' 80 first games, taking 152 at-bats. Nonetheless, he tied Holliday (296 at-bats), catcher Yadier Molina (265), and third baseman David Freese (276) with 13 HRs. He also carried a .322 batting average with 43 RBIs. The RBI total ranked third in the NL since May 1, even with the second DL stay. Craig fabricated consistency throughout the season, finishing with a .307 average, 22 HRs and 92 RBIs in 119 games. He ranked tenth in the NL in batting, seventh in slugging percentage (.522) and placed 19th in the Most Valuable Player award (MVP) balloting. He also led all major leaguers with a .400 batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP). Despite two DL trips, Craig played 30 games in the outfield and led the team in starts at first base with 86, while Berkman appeared in just 32 total games.
Craig became the primary first baseman for the Cardinals following Lance Berkman's departure after the 2012 season. On March 8, the Cardinals announced they had reached agreement on a five-year contract with Craig, with a team option for a sixth season. The $31 million deal buys out Craig's three future arbitration-eligible years as well as his first year of free agency. Craig would earn $13 million in the 2018 season if the Cardinals exercise their optional sixth year.
In July, National League manager Bruce Bochy selected Craig to his first All-Star Game at Citi Field in Queens, New York City, as a reserve first baseman. His first-half performance included batting .333 with 10 home runs and 74 RBIs. Both his RBI and hit totals (116) placed second in the NL. He is the fifth alumnus of the California Golden Bears to be named to an MLB All-Star team.
The next month, Craig belted the game-winning grand slam against the division rival Cincinnati Reds on August 26, bringing the Cardinals back from a 5–4 deficit to win, 8–6. It was his first career grand slam, boosting his totals to seven hits in ten bases-loaded at-bats to go with 20 RBIs to that point in the season (14 for 31, .452 batting average for his career). He was also batting .452 with runners in scoring position –– again leading the Major Leagues –– and it also was the third-highest of all time for a single season, after George Brett (.469, 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.459, 1997). A Lisfranc injury Craig suffered on September 4 on an infield hit against the Reds forced him from appearing for the rest of the regular season. At the time he was third in the NL in RBIs with 97 and finished eighth. Despite being shut down so early, Craig still finished with the most RBIs on the Cardinals. St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Bernie Miklasz dubbed him "The Clutchmaster," "The RBI Machine" and then "an RBI Monster." He also finished eighth in batting average (.315). His .454 batting average with RISP again led the Major Leagues, and was the third-highest all-time. That figure, of course, also set a new team record that bested Brian Jordan's average of .422 in 1996 (62 of 147). In spite of his success hitting with RISP, Baseball-Reference.com rated his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 2.2 and Fangraphs at 2.6.
Craig's chances of returning to play before the end of the season depended on how far the Cardinals could extend their season. St. Louis qualified for the postseason by finishing with the best regular season record (97–65) in the National League. They kept winning through the playoffs, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Division Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Craig was ready as a hitter in time for the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox but manager Mike Matheny excluded him from defense as the injury was not fully healed. Therefore, he served as the designated hitter (DH) in at Fenway Park in Boston and a pinch hitter at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, a National League park where no DH is played. In Game 3, Craig was part of an unusual, game-ending, play. With the scored tied 4–4 in the bottom of the ninth, Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay hit a ground ball off Koji Uehara toward second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who threw the ball home to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to easily tag out Yadier Molina attempting to score. Saltalamacchia then threw the ball to Will Middlebrooks as Craig was rounding third, but the ball sailed wide into right field for an error, and, at the same time, Middlebrooks tripped Craig with a leg whip. Daniel Nava recovered the ball and threw it back home long before Craig would have successfully scored. However, umpire Jim Joyce awarded Craig home plate when he called an obstruction on Middlebrooks, giving the Cardinals a 5–4 walk-off victory. This is the first known such walk-off victory in World Series history. The Cardinals would eventually lose the series to the Red Sox after 6 games. For the Series, Craig batted 16 times and collected six hits for a .375 batting average. After the season, Craig finished 21st in the MVP balloting.
While still in the minor leagues, Craig showed in little time that he could hit at all levels but he had no natural position. In spite of his questionable defensive abilities, his versatility and athleticism has allowed him to play at all positions in the major leagues except pitcher, shortstop, and catcher. After an experiment at second base early in his Major League career, first base and the corners in the outfield emerged as the positions for which he was best suited. Although he played shortstop in amateur ball and third base in the minor leagues, it appeared that he was not well-suited to play either position in the major leagues, due in large part to the speed of the game. Despite the Cardinals reporting that he showed improvement at third base, he posted a fielding percentage of just .927 in 246 minor league games, considered very low for a regular third baseman. According to former Cardinals player development executive Jeff Luhnow and Memphis Redbirds manager Ron Warner, Craig's arm, range and footwork proved problematic. He improved his footwork well enough for the Texas League, but was still considered insufficient for the Major Leagues because his movement to his left was inhibited, restricting his ability to start double plays. Further, with an inefficient, semi-sidearm throwing motion that did not resolve, Craig relied on his innate strength to compensate for time lost.
Awards and honors
|Title||# of times||Dates (Ranking or event)||Refs|
|Major League Baseball World Series Champion||1||2011|||
|Major League Baseball All-Star||1||2013|||
|Minor leagues All-Star||5||2006 midseason (New York-Penn League), 2007 midseason and postseason (Florida State League), 2008 midseason and postseason (Texas League)|||
|Minor leagues All-Star game Top Star||1||2007 (Florida State League)|||
|Baseball America's Cardinals' top prospects||4||2007 (#15), 2008 (#26), 2009 (#7), 2010 (#5)|||
|Baseball America's Cardinals' best minor league power hitter||2||2009, 2010|||
|Cardinals system Player of the Year||1||2009|||
|Cardinals organization Player of the Month||2||June 2007, July 2009|||
|The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Top Prospect||2||2010 (#7), 2011 (#7)|||
|Baseball America All-American First Team||1||2005 (SS)|||
|Statistical category||# of times||Season (Rank, description)|
|Batting average||2||2012 (7th, .307), 2013 (8th, .315)|
|Batting average with runners in scoring position||2||2012 (1st, .400)†, 2013 (1st, .454)†|
|Slugging percentage||1||2012 (7th, .522)|
|Runs batted in||1||2013 (8th, 97)|
Bold: led National League
†: led all Major Leagues
Allen Craig holds a degree in Social Welfare from the University of California-Berkeley. When growing up, his favorite baseball player was Ken Griffey, Jr.. He was also a fan of Cal Ripken, Jr. Craig attended high school with Brandon Snider, the grandson of Duke Snider, with whom he tied the World Series consecutive pinch hit mark. His sister, Kendal Craig, also graduated from Chaparral High School in Temecula and played softball. She now attends California State University San Marcos in San Marcos, California.
On November 12, 2011, Craig married his long-time girlfriend, Marie LaMarca, who also is a graduate of Chaparral High School. The couple reside in their mutual hometown of Temecula, along with their daughter Eden and pet tortoise, Torty. Torty, whom he has had since a hatchling, gained notoriety through a vicarious Twitter account and has since served as an informal mascot for the Cardinals while gaining a cult following. Craig's favorite movies are Major League and Major League II. He still enjoys playing basketball and has also played golf since his father introduced him to the sport as a small child.
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- Raineri, J. P. (October 28, 2011). "Former Chaparral graduate gives Temecula ties to the World Series". Valley News. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
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- azruavatar (November 27, 2011). "Allen Craig, a minor history of". Viva El Birdos. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
- Borelli, Steve (April 1, 2010). "Cardinals trade Julio Lugo to Orioles". USA Today. "Joe Mather, Allen Craig and Nick Stavinoha, who had been competing for two Cardinals roster spots, all made the opening-day roster."
- "Allen Craig statistics and history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- Associated Press (July 19, 2010). "Cardinals pound Kendrick, Phillies 8–4". KMOV.com St. Louis. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
- Associated Press (August 22, 2010). "Cardinals rookies Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig overwhelm Giants". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
- Associated Press (September 24, 2010). "Wainwright wins 20th as Cardinals shut down Cubs". Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois). Retrieved November 4, 2013.
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- McNeal, Stan (March 9, 2012). "Breakthrough performance: Cardinals' Allen Craig starred despite busted knee". The Sporting News. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- Grapperhaus, Will (June 15, 2012). "Why the St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig is the most underrated player in MLB". Bleacher Report. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
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- Hoffman, Benjamin (October 21, 2011). "Postseason pinch-hitting star, three games running". New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
- Rains, B.J. (March 8, 2013). "Cardinals give Craig multi-year deal". Fox Sports Midwest. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Associated Press (May 1, 2012). "St. Louis Cardinals activate Allen Craig from 15-day DL". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
- Strauss, Joe (June 16, 2011). "Craig has broken kneecap". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- h, b (July 18, 2013). "How good was St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig in 2012? Really good.". Viva El Birdos. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- Springer, Willie (March 22, 2012). "Cardinals Allen Craig getting closer". www.stlouis.cbslocal.com. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- Langosch, Jenifer (May 1, 2012). "Cards activate Craig; designate Komatsu". stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com.
- Moore, Dan (June 1, 2012). "St. Louis Cardinals slugger returns from DL Friday". SB Nation St. Louis. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- Associated Press (June 4, 2012). "Allen Craig helps St. Louis Cardinals beat New York Mets to stop 5-game skid". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
- Rains, B. J. (July 3, 2012). "Allen Craig quietly having remarkable season". Fox Sports Midwest. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
- Langosch, Jenifer (March 8, 2013). "Craig humbled by five-year contract with Cards". MLB.com via St. Louis Cardinals website. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- "Cal's Craig to play in 2013 MLB All-Star Game". GoldenBearSports.com. July 16, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2013. "Craig’s name is now etched among other Bear greats who went on to play in MLB’s showcase game."
- "Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals - recap". ESPN.com. August 26, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
- Taylor, Jon (August 26, 2013). "Allen Craig and the St. Louis Cardinals are in a make-or-break stretch". SI.com. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- Miklasz, Bernie (May 6, 2013). "Allen Craig, RBI machine". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
- Miklasz, Bernie (July 24, 2013). "Allen Craig, RBI monster". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
- Goold, Derrick (September 4, 2013). "Craig returns to St. Louis with injured foot". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
- "Allen Craig". Fangraphs Baseball. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
- Harding, Thomas (October 24, 2013). "Cardinals' Allen Craig 'feels good' in return, may DH again in Game 2". MLB.com. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
- Langosch, Jenifer (October 26, 2013). "On obstruction call, Cards walk off for 2-1 Series lead". MLB.com. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
- Castrovince, Anthony (October 27, 2013). "Umpires point to rulebook in explaining chaotic finish". MLB.com. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
- "Andrew McCutchen wins Pirates’ 1st MVP since 1992". Baseball Writers' Association of America. November 14, 2013. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
- Booher, Kary (August 3, 2010). "Why Craig is no option at third base". Springfield News-Leader (Springfield, Missouri). Retrieved November 4, 2013.
- Langosch, Jenifer (July 15, 2013). "Mujica, Craig, Carpenter prove All-Star worth". MLB.com. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
- DiMeglio, Steve (April 16, 2011). "Get to know: Cardinals' Allen Craig fills in all over the field". USA Today.com. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- "Allen Craig's fiancée, Marie LaMarca". PlayerWives.com. October 31, 2011.
- Langosch, Jenifer (December 24, 2012). "Holiday Q & A with Allen Craig". MLB.com via St. Louis Cardinals official website. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- @TortyCraig on Twitter