Coco Crisp Should be Batting Third


You think I’m nuts, but let me defend myself.

Batting Coco Crisp third could improve the Oakland Athletics lineup.

I have thought about this for a long time, but a tweet from CBS’ Al Melchior prompted me to finally put it in writing.

Sep 26, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp (4) scores during the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I think Coco’s days of being an elite run scoring threat are all-but-over. The great Bill James developed a metric for determining the speed any given player brings to the table. This metric is called “Speed Score”, or “Spd” for short.

 Fangraphs uses a version of Spd comprised of a few different percentages: stolen base percentage, frequency of stolen base attempts, percentage of triples, and runs scored percentage.

 A score of 7 represents an elite score, a great score is 6, and an above-average score is 5.5.

 Since 2010 Coco has rated as having above average speed every season: 8.6, 7.4, 8.1, 6.1, and 5.6.

 You’ll notice that after three seasons of near-elite speed Coco has declined to barely above-average. He’s still fast, just not blazing.

 His declining speed might be the result of chronic injuries, increasing age, or declining ability. The fact remains that the skill that once made Coco a perennial 3-WAR player is going away.

Coco Crisp batting Third as Opposed to First

In 2014 Crisp led off for 118 of Oakland’s games. He batted .246/ .336/ .363, contributing to his second lowest OPS in an A’s uniform.

 He batted everywhere in the lineup except for second, third, and fourth. I believe that was a mistake, and a correctable one.

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 With the bases empty last season Coco batted .227 with a .661 OPS and as the leadoff  hitter he batted .246 with .696 OPS.

 With men on base, however, Coco batted .284 with a .771 OPS and wRC+ of 122. With RISP those numbers were .269, .787, and 120, respectively.

 Over his career Crisp’s best numbers come with men in scoring position: .285 BA, .764 OPS, 102 wRC+.

My thought is that with Coco’s declining speed, but clear ability to thrive in RBI opportunities, why not give him more opportunities to drive in runs?

 A Revamped Oakland Athletics Lineup

In 2013 and 2014 Craig Gentry posted elite Spd scores of 8.3 and 7.5, respectively. Sam Fuld’s Spd scores the past four seasons have all rated 6.6 or higher

Jul 6, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Craig Gentry (3) reacts after scoring a run on a double by catcher Derek Norris (not pictured) against the Toronto Blue Jays in the eighth inning at Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Blue Jays 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

 If you read my post earlier this week you will know that Ben Zobrist thrives in the second spot in the order. If you didn’t read my article, now you know (and go read it).

 A batting order that begins:

  1. Fuld/Gentry
  2. Zobrist
  3. Crisp

 Will not only allow the A’s to maximize the strengths of those four players, it will also deepen the rest of the lineup as well.

 This will allow Billy Butler, Ike Davis, Brett Lawrie, and Josh Reddick, who are all capable run producers, to sit lower in the order and perhaps take some of the pressure off.

Butler’s best numbers have come from the third and fourth spots in the order, Davis has excelled batting fourth or later, and Lawrie and Reddick have both found success hitting seventh.

 That does not even consider the projected catcher platoon of Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, plus Marcus Semien, who could provide sneaky pop from the bottom of the order.

 A New Way to Score Runs

The top run producers of the past three seasons have been replaced. Optimistic projections for the guys replacing them or not, the A’s will still need to score runs to complement a deep and talented pitching staff.

 Getting creative with the batting order might be the best way to do that.

 Putting players in their best position to thrive by using platoons has been the MO of general manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin for a few years now.

 This is the same concept, it just looks a bit bit different.

Next: Craig Gentry Should Bat Third