Coco Crisp Doing Well in Limited Role

When the Indians brought back Coco Crisp at the August 31 waiver trading deadline, it was difficult to see what kind of impact he would have on the team.

To start off, the thinking goes, it would be hard for the 36-year-old veteran to get at bats. The outfield was already crowded enough, with Abraham Almonte, Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, and Brandon Guyer all splitting time. The switch-hitter had no clear platoon splits, so that was not an automatic way for him to get at bats.

There was also the whole matter of actually hitting well. It was hard to tell how much he would produce. Age has caught up to the former star. He put up a .234/.299/.399 slash line in Oakland before the trade and hit .175/.252/.222 in an injury-shortened 2015.

However, Terry Francona has worked his magic yet again. Like restoring power to Mike Napoli’s bat and rediscovering Davis’s speed, the manager has also found a decent hitter in Crisp. Francona has put him in spots that he knows will work and Crisp hasn’t let him down.

So far, in 17 games and 52 plate appearances with the Tribe, Crisp has put up a .239/.352/.435 slash line. FanGraphs’ weighted runs created metric, which measures how well a certain player is hitting relative to league average, says Crisp has been 7% worse than league average while with the Tribe. With Oakland, he was 11% worse than league average. Not great, but also not terrible. Using fWAR, Crisp has been worth 0.2 wins in three weeks of play for the Tribe, while in five months with the A’s, he was worth -0.6 wins.

Looking past the average contributions at the dish, Crisp has been valuable in other ways for the Tribe. To start, he’s preparing the team for life after Almonte. If you haven’t heard yet, Almonte is ineligible for postseason play due to his suspension to begin the season. Crisp has taken some of Almonte’s at bats and shown he can be a viable replacement in left field during the Tribe’s October run. Now Francona can rest easier knowing he has a solid replacement in left field.

Crisp has also added value by coming through with runners in scoring position. One of the season leaders in that split throughout the season, he has continued to drive in runners on base.

For the month of September (his time with the Tribe), Crisp has a 1.054 OPS when batting with runners in scoring position, driving in six in 18 plate appearances. Overall he has a 1.070 OPS in that split (third in the AL), so it’s not like the small sample size is inflating the numbers. FanGraphs reports he’s been 88% better than the league average hitter this season when men are on second or third. Crisp has been one of the best hitters in the league with RISP, a skill the Tribe needs when the calendar turns to October.

The last item Crisp brings to the Tribe is veteran leadership. Sure it’s an old cliché to fall back on, but it’s still important. Consider this. Of the 25 players the Tribe will carry into the postseason, only six have playoff experience greater than the one Wild Card Game in 2013. Those are Andrew Miller, Dan Otero, Chris Gimenez, Napoli, Davis, and Crisp. His knowledge of how to navigate the emotional roller coaster of a playoff series will be important to share with the less experienced players so they don’t let the bright lights consume them.

Though puzzling at the time, the low-cost acquisition of Crisp has been a good one for the Tribe. His Cleveland homecoming has been uneventful, perfect for a veteran outfielder just trying to contribute in any way he can.

Photo: AP Photo/Phil Long

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