American League Outfield Player Watch: Coco Crisp

After setting the world on fire this past April with a .283/.388/.566 line with five home runs, things have slowed down considerably for Coco Crisp in recent weeks. A quick glance of his batting average doesn’t tell the full story (just as one would expect with batting average) as he repeated his .283 average in May. His May was shortened due to a stint on the disabled list, but for the first eight weeks of his season Crisp looked like a different hitter.

For the first time since 2009 — when he received all of 209 plate appearances — Crisp’s first half walk rate is in double digits, currently at a healthy 11.6%. With already nine home runs on the season he already has more homers this year than in two of the previous three seasons. He’s also managed to trim his strikeout rate down to a tidy 10.6%, the 15th best mark in qualified baseball. In a somewhat recent podcast the present author stated that selling high on Crisp may be a good idea. The question hung in mind of the author and thus Crisp became a subject that required further delving in to.

While the home runs have been a pleasant surprise, the steals — probably what one drafted Crisp for in the first place — haven’t been as prevalent as recent years. Having 14 steals at the break is nothing to scoff at, though it is probably less than one hoped. The time missed on the disabled list probably lost Crisp a few bags. Using recent history as a comparison, last year Crisp had just 16 steals at the break and then went bonkers for 26 bags in the second half. The power of predictive value in first and second half splits is non-existent, but Crisp still has the talent to steal. One shouldn’t worry about his end of season steals tally.

Something that one could be concerned about is Crisp’s .268 BABIP. In the midst of his five home run April, he was hitting fly balls at a 57% clip. Since then his batted ball profile has changed considerably as he hasn’t had a month where his FB% was above 30%. The present author isn’t inclined to give much note to precise line drive calculations (stringer bias, lack of consistency, and subjective opinion all play roles in that) and much prefers GB%, FB%, and GB/FB ratio. A higher ground ball rate should equate to more hits, as ground balls have a higher BABIP than their fly ball counterparts. Crisp’s 1.43 GB/FB ratio the highest since 2004 where he posted a .320 BABIP with a .297/.344/.446 line.

A near .300 line with a .320 BABIP probably isn’t what Crisp is going to do from this point forward, but it does show how effective Crisp can be when keeping the ball on the ground. One could be worried about his injury history — he’s never played in 150 games — though ideally with so many other viable outfield options, the Oakland Athletics could form a rotation of sorts to keep everyone as healthy as possible.

Crisp’s walk rates are on a three year climb, he is hitting leadoff for a top 10 offense as measured by runs and wRC+, and we should see an increase in his BABIP due to his batted ball profile. These factors all make Crisp a candidate that you don’t want to sell, but you may want to buy instead.

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Cuckoo for Coco
Cuckoo for Coco

I’ve had Coco the last couple years and all my league mates wonder why I like him so much.. He’s a solid hitter hitting leadoff for an underrated offense filled with players from the land of misfit toys. i can’t help but to root for him. i think he’ll be solid in the second half.