Between August 14 and August 17 in 2011, Giancarlo Stanton hit home runs in four consecutive games. One of baseball’s premier true power hitters, Stanton has never put together a longer streak, although in fairness his career is still just beginning. Between September 23 and September 27 in 2011, Adrian Beltre hit home runs in four consecutive games. Beltre is undeniably strong, but he’s never put together a longer streak. Troy Tulowitzki has topped out at four games. Matt Holliday has topped out at four games. Jose Bautista has topped out at four games. Ryan Howard has topped out at four games. Coco Crisp has topped out at four games, but the difference is that his streak is still active.
Five days ago, Crisp went yard off Brad Peacock. Four days ago, he went yard off Bud Norris. Three days ago, he went yard off Lucas Harrell. Yesterday, he went yard off C.J. Wilson. Crisp also has five doubles to his name in the early going, and it all adds up to a .343 average, a .829 slugging percentage, and a .486 ISO. That ISO presently ranks fifth in the league, between Mark Reynolds and Colby Rasmus. Justin Upton and Chris Davis, for the sake of your own curiosity, lead the way.
But this isn’t about those other guys — this is about Crisp, about the guy who came into 2012 with a career ISO of .133. Crisp has never been thought of as weak, so much — he’s popped 16 dingers before, and he’s at 90 for his career — but if you were just going off of the numbers, you’d think that Crisp might be having a breakthrough season at 33. You’d think that maybe Crisp changed his swing or something, to hit the ball with more force and at a greater launch angle. How else to explain such a bizarre data set, even after you consider the effects of a small sample size?
We think of ISO as being a simple measure of a guy’s power. That’s why it’s also referred to as Isolated Power, with “power” right in the name. It’s slugging percentage when you strip away the singles, and power and extra-base hits go hand in hand. The best measure of power would probably be something like strength or batted-ball speed, but ISO is a proxy that even a moron could calculate given guidance and safety scissors. The highest ISOs in baseball history belong to Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds. Powerful folk, those.
So let’s look at Crisp. Crisp already has nine extra-base hits, in 38 plate appearances. How powerful has he been, truly? Has he been hitting the crap out of the ball? Has he been both clearing fences and hitting them? Basically: has Crisp looked like a power hitter, or has he just hit for power?
We’ll look at the doubles in order, and then we’ll look at the dingers in order. Remember: five doubles, and four dingers.
Double the first, on April 3. Crisp hit a low line drive that split the gap between the left and center fielders. The ball rolled all the way to the wall and Crisp, of course, has plenty of speed, allowing him to reach second easily. For a fleeting moment there was thought he could try for third. Hit with the same trajectory to a different part of the outfield, this is probably a ringing single.
Double the second, on April 5. Crisp hit a low line drive down the right-field line. Down the line is a good place to hit a line drive, because it often means extra bases. In this case, it meant extra bases!
Double the third, also on April 5, and in fact in the same inning as the double above. Amazing! Crisp hit a fly ball down the right-field line that Rick Ankiel just couldn’t catch up to. It hung up for long enough that Crisp made it all the way into second. It’s possible a more athletic right fielder would’ve made the catch, but I’m not here to disparage Rick Ankiel. He’s been through enough, and now he’s on the Astros.
Double the fourth, on April 6. Crisp hit a slicing line drive over the third baseman and toward the left-field corner. What did we say about line drives down the line? Good speed, easy double.
Double the fifth, on April 7. Crisp hit a fly ball to an ideal location in between Justin Maxwell and J.D. Martinez. Maxwell nearly made the catch, but instead the ball just eluded him and Crisp had no trouble stretching. The fly ball came down short of the track, in case you couldn’t tell or in case you weren’t looking.
Now we move on to the home runs.
Dinger the first, on April 5. Crisp pulled a fly ball just over the right-field fence, just inside of the foul pole. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, it had a “standard distance” of 345 feet. The league-average home run has a standard distance of 395 feet. The league-average dinger leaves the bat at about 104 miles per hour; this dinger left the bat at about 95 miles per hour. So far, this is tied for the year’s shortest home run.
Dinger the second, on April 6. Crisp hit a fly ball to the opposite field, into the Crawford Boxes, which are still a feature in a major-league stadium. This one left the bat at about 92 miles per hour, with a standard distance of 333 feet. It gained some distance due to wind, just sneaking past the boundary. The ESPN Home Run Tracker has a neat little stat the tracks how many ballparks, out of 30, a given dinger would’ve left under standard conditions. Under standard conditions, this dinger would’ve left zero ballparks.
Dinger the third, on April 7. Crisp pulled a fly ball to right field and cleared the wall by a row or two or three. This one left the bat at about 92 miles per hour, with a standard distance of 341 feet. It was very windy, in a favorable way, for the hitters. As Crisp returned to the Oakland dugout, one of the announcers remarked that this wasn’t “a cheapie”. According to that ESPN Home Run Tracker measure, under standard conditions, this ball would’ve left zero ballparks. There have been five such home runs so far in 2013 — one by Jimmy Rollins, two by Robinson Cano, and two by Coco Crisp. By speed off bat, Crisp has the two weakest home runs, the sixth-weakest home run, and the 42nd-weakest home run. (There have been 251 home runs.)
Dinger the fourth, on April 9. Crisp pulled a fly ball to left field, batting righty. Of Crisp’s four home runs, this is the most “legitimate” — it is the hardest off the bat, by far, and it has the highest standard distance, by far. But we’re talking about a speed of around 99 miles per hour and a distance of 379 feet, and as you can see, Mike Trout came close to bringing the dinger back. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a cheap home run in Anaheim, especially in a night game, but Crisp did his best to try to prove me wrong.
Coco Crisp, right now, owns a .486 ISO, which is the fifth-highest ISO in all of baseball. He owns that ISO thanks to a quintet of doubles and a quartet of dingers, and each of the doubles were somewhat lucky to be doubles, and each of the dingers were somewhat lucky to be dingers. Under other conditions, the dingers could’ve been outs. Under other conditions, the doubles could’ve been outs or singles. It’s hard to imagine a less representative ISO than the one Crisp is presently running.
Which, okay, whatever, I guess we all already knew Crisp hadn’t morphed into some sort of power hitter. In that sense this article is a complete waste of time. But think about it this way: Crisp has proven that he’s capable of a .486 ISO. He’s proven that he’s capable of that because he’s done that for a short period of time. Now imagine a graph, with something not unlike a bell curve, measuring ISO on the horizontal axis. Crisp right now is way, way, way to the right. In keeping with the statistical theme, Crisp is maxing out his error bars. There’s nowhere but down to go from here, but it is a demonstrated possibility that Crisp can perform like one of baseball’s premier power hitters, even if he doesn’t actually look like a power hitter in the act. You don’t always need no-doubters. For a time you can settle for just-enoughs.
Just-enoughs have fueled Crisp to an improbable-but-not-really-improbable .486 ISO. He could just as easily be posting an ISO under .100, given basically the same balls in play. Just think about that for a minute, and then think about it a little more. Then think about baseball. This is a weird game that we watch.
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