Crisp not the answer for Fenway’s centerfield
January 28, 2006 4 Comments
Taking a page from my co-writer’s handbook, let’s look at the Red Sox acquisition in a defensive light.
For those of you not clued in to the latest from the Hot Stove League, the Red Sox shipped away Andy Marte (?!), Kelly Shoppach, Guillermo Mota, money and a PTBNL to the Cleveland Indians for Josh Bard, David Riske, and Coco Crisp.
While trading Andy Marte may go down in the annals of Sox trade lore along the lines of the 1988 trade of Curt Schilling and Brady Anderson for Mike Boddicker, Crisp is the real catch for the Sox. The 26-year-old switch hitter will assume the leadoff spot in the lineup and the hole in centerfield both left vacant by Johnny Damon’s defection.
I have my doubts about Crisp as a lead-off hitter. While still young and improving, his on-base percentage has stalled out at .345. Furthermore, what I like to call his ISOBP (Isolated On-Base Percentage, which crudely substracts BA from OBP), has been in the .045 to .047 range over the last two seasons. In other words, if Crisp hitters .280 instead of .300, his OBP may drop to as low as .325, and the Sox need a leadoff hitter getting on base more frequently than that.
His offense, however, is neither here nor there. Proponents will point to his increase in doubles from 2004 to 2005 while opponents may not that he hit just 1 more home run in 118 more plate apperances. Plus, no one knows how he’ll respond to the pressures of Fenway.
Rather, I want to look at this trade from a defensive perspective using Gassko’s Range stat. The Red Sox clearly picked up Crisp in order to stick him into Fenway’s vast centerfield. How will he fare there?
On first glance, it seems as though Crisp may be a good fit for Boston. After all, he was one of the stand-out fielders under Gassko’s system. As a left fielder, he came in at 34 fielding runs above average under the Range system. That’s absolutely stellar.
However – and this is a big however – left field is not center field. In 2005, Crisp spent most of his time in leftfield. In 2004, he spent most of his time in centerfield, and the numbers tell a different story. That season, he was among the worst fielders at his position, netting a -20. While Crisp placed even with four other players, only Bernie Williams was worse in centerfield in 2004. That’s sure to resonant poorly with Red Sox fans.
So now, heading into a 2006 season following Front Office turmoil and a huge roster shakeup, the Red Sox are going to be relying on poor fielding centerfielder to anchor their outfield defense. They are also relying on a hitter whose OBP is closely tied to his batting average. And all of this landed in Boston at the cost of Andy Marte, Baseball America’s Number 1 prospect in the Red Sox organization. I can’t help but think Theo and Co. could have done better.