Thursday, March 12, 2009

Don't call it a comeback.. Why Coco might carry the Royals in '09..

The Royals continued their good play of late as they beat the Chi-Sox 9-3 in front of 4,645 fans.  

The hitters managed 6 extra base hits and 6 singles for a total of 12 hits.  The hitters had 4 walks and 4 strikeouts as well.  The pitchers gave up 7 hits (2 of them for extra bases) and 3 runs.  The hitters struck out just four and walked 2 batters.

Hitter of the Game

I'm going to go a different route in naming today's hitter of the game.  While he didn't score or drive a run in, he did continue his AWESOME spring.  Coco Crisp will be today's hitter of the game.  Coco was 1-1 with two walks and no strikeouts.  Coco's spring line sits at .391/.545/.609.  Not too shabby for a defense-first centerfielder.

Pitcher of the Game

Kyle Davies continued his impressive spring as he went 4 scoreless innings giving up just one single while striking out 2 and walking 1.  Kyle's spring ERA sits at a measly 0.71.  He earned a save as he went the final three innings.


The Royals will have 2 games tomorrow, their only split squad games of the spring.  Robinson Tejada will take on Vicente Padilla when the Royals host the Rangers.  Zack Greinke will take on Yovani Gallardo as the Royals will play visitors to the Brew Crew.  First pitch for both games is scheduled for 3:05 Central Time.

Covelli Loyce Crisp

Much has been discussed about Coco's background already.  I'm sure you've heard the tale.  Coco's Dad was a boxer, his Mom was a sprinter, and the rest of his family was also connected to athletics somehow.  While I love all of this background information and the fact that Coco is the type of player that plays his heart out no matter the situation, it is not why I believe Coco Crisp might be the biggest surprise on the Royals this year.  It is not why he is my breakout (again) candidate of the year amongst our outfielders. 

There will be a lot of articles written this spring telling you that Coco is finally healthy again.  There will be some explaining that he never got comfortable in Boston and that the CF job was handed to Jacoby Ellsbury and stripped from him unjustly.  I believe in all of these things, (well except for the last one), but most importantly, I believe in Coco Crisp.

Coco has a skill set very similar to David DeJesus.  David has hit for a higher average in his career (and had a better OBP), but their power numbers are similar, and Coco is much better at stealing bases and by all accounts plays much better defensively.  Coco is basically a true "centerfielder" version of the tweener that David DeJesus is.

But this isn't a comparison of the two players, no sirree.  It is an argument as to why I think Coco might just win comeback player of the year.  

While I usually don't put much emphasis on spring numbers, Coco has really impressed me so far.  Coco has drawn 9 walks against just 3 strikeouts, and has a line of .391/.545/.609.  Another encouraging sign is that most of these numbers have come against pitchers vying for the rotation of their perspective squads, as Coco has started in centerfield in each of his 11 appearances.  In fact, Coco is 2nd in walks this spring, trailing Albert Pujols by 1.  No other player has at least 8 walks.

But sure, it's just spring, and it's early spring at that.  Coco could go on to strikeout in every remaining at bat he has, right?  Not so fast.  I'm a big believer in carryover from the 2nd half of the previous season.  I feel like baseball is a game of trends, and the numbers from a player's second half are a much better indicator of the next season than the entire numbers from the previous season.  Well, how did Coco do in the 2nd half of last season?  I'm glad you asked.

Last season, in 175 plate appearances after the all star break, Coco hit .315/.392/.403 with 20 walks against 26 strike outs.  This line was good for a 794 OPS.  

By comparison, our four starting outfielders for the last 2 months of the season (DeJesus, Maier, Guillen, Teahen) posted 792, 634, 752, and 692 OPS respectively.

So, basically, if Coco Crisp had been a Royal last season and if he had posted the same stat line (a lot of ifs, I know) then he would have been the Royals best offensive and defensive outfielder.  Interesting.

If I don't have you sold yet, then take a look at this.  Before Crisp went to Boston, before he was injured and pressured and criticized and put under the microscope of the Boston media, Coco was one of, if not the best young centerfield prospects in the game.

I'm talking about Coco's 2004 and 2005 seasons in Cleveland, of course.

Let's take a quick gander at Coco's numbers from 2004 and 2005 in comparison to the Royal's primary centerfielders during those years, Mr. Carlos Beltran and Mr. David DeJesus.


Coco - .297/.344/.446
Beltran - .267/.367/.548
DeJesus - .287/.360/.402


Coco - .300/.345/.465
Beltran - .266/.330/.414
DeJesus - .293/.359/.445

At first glance, you might notice Beltran's awesome year in 2004, but if you look closer, you might realize that Coco easily outplayed him in 2005.  I'm as big a fan of OBP as anyone I know, but the 51 points of SLG that Coco holds over Carlos is easily worth the 15 points of OBP he gives up.  

So what is the point I'm trying to make?  The point is that in 2005, Coco Crisp was essentially a better outfielder than Carlos Beltran.  Oh, and Carlos Beltran is almost 3 years older than Coco.  Sure, they're completely different players, Coco is a player who hits for a high average, and has to in order to maintain his value while Beltran is a power and OBP guy.  But in the end, if Coco can end up being 3/4 the player that Carlos is (while earning 1/4 of Beltran's yearly salary) then I think the Royals will be very well off.

So do I have a prediction for Coco's line this year?  Sure I do.  But I'm not sure I'm ready to divulge it yet and embarrass myself.  I do, however, believe in Covelli Loyce Crisp.

And I think that you should too.

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