Midseason report: it’s Coco in a landslide!

July 12th, 2007 → 10:29 am @ // 17 Comments

Some of you may have noticed that my postings have been a bit, well, nonexistent as of late. I won’t bore you with the vagaries of how I spend my days; suffice to say that I apologize. I’ll try to be better.

One thing I’ve especially wanted to do is provide some sort of midseason report card; if you regularly read the papers’ Sox coverage, it’s the type of thing you’ve been getting a lot of already. This is going to be a bit different; for one thing, I’m not going to evaluate each and every player (along with the manager, coaches, and members of the front office) — instead, I’ll just anoint the first half’s valedictorian. Another difference: it’s not going to be Okajima, or Beckett, or Lowell, or Youkilis, or even everyone’s favorite muppet, Pedroia.

Nope: it’s Coco Crisp, the man Tony Massarotti gave a D+ in his report card. Now, sure, a .322 OBP is not what anyone would want from someone who’s supposed to be a potent offensive weapon, to say nothing a .709 OPS. In fact, none of his offensive stats are anything to write home about (if, that is, we lived in a world in which people still wrote letters). There are signs, however, that he’s turning that around: he’s been on an absolute tear since the middle of June, and since that 3-HR series in Atlanta, he’s been arguably the Sox’s most potent offensive force.

But what’s made Crisp the first half’s MVP is what he’s doing on defense. This is something I’ve been paying attention to since May, when Bill James wrote that the Sox’s surge happened at precisely the same time that Coco became the best center fielder since Micky Mantle. As Bill wrote, “It seems to me that the BIGGEST factor in our team’s performance over the last week or so has been that Coco has been just unbelievable in center field…he’s just catching EVERYTHING that looks like it might be trouble. There’s been no gap in right center, no gap in left center, nothing getting over his head and nothing has been landing in front of him.”

That stretch of defensive excellence didn’t let up, and there’s good reason to hope that Coco’s has discovered something (or made a Robert Johnsonesque deal with the devil) that’s allowed him to go from appearing lost to playing above virtually everyone else in baseball. This has been valuable for any number of reasons: first, and most obviously, because he’s saved a lot of hits. He’s also given the corner outfielders more freedom to cheat out. Finally — and this is crucial — he’s given pitchers the confidence to pitch to contact when need be; they know that if a ball is hit anywhere near to him, he’ll come up with it. My favorite example of this also came in that Atlanta series, when Hudson smoked a sinking line drive to left-center (an inning after Beckett had a shot of his own, incidentally). Coco seemed to materialize out of nowhere to snare the ball. It was a great play, obviously, but what was most telling was the fact that Alex Cora, playing shortstop, held up a congratulatory fist even before Coco had made the catch. That’s a kind of Bird-like confidence (I know the analogy isn’t exact). Afterwards, when Beckett told reporters he constantly had to re-evaluate which of CC’s catches were the most impressive, you got the sense that this is a guy who could be having a Lugo-like season at the plate and he’d still be valuable.

So there you have it. Call me crazy, but I’m handing Coco my 2007 first half MVP award. Congrats, you rascal you.


Post Categories: 2007 Report Cards & 2007 Season & Coco Crisp

17 Comments → “Midseason report: it’s Coco in a landslide!”


  1. jenches

    10 years ago

    I don’t know if I’d call him the valedictorian (I think I have to give that to Oki or Youk), but I agree that Crisp has been absolutely stellar in the field. The most telling moment for me was last Saturday when he didn’t make the game saving catch against Detroit. It would have been a downright amazing catch had he made it, but it’s gotten to the point where, like Cora, I am expecting those catches to be made, and I just couldn’t believe it when that one dropped in.

    Here’s hoping the turnaround we’ve been seeing at the plate is for real and he’ll continue to be a vacuum in center.

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  2. djarm18

    10 years ago

    Forgive me diehard fans, my memory is spotty but is this not the oddest half a season for the Sox in awhiles? When can you remember a 10 game lead with a strong starting pitching rotation that’s missing their ace in Schill? An exciting offense with hitters like Manny Ortez that are not exactly putting up staggering power numbers? When can you remember a Red Sox team that can run? When can you remember a Sox team where it’s bullpen is its STRENGTH? A Sawx team with great chemistry without “Cowboy Idiot” mantras, Rocket or Pedro egos or Baylor’s kangaroo courts? From what I can tell from afar this team simply loves to play baseball and cribbage, in no particular order.

    Are you really waiting for the other shoe to drop?

    Yes, last season’s “Massacre” and injuires were staggering but I think the biggest challenge to this team are those damn AL Central/West teams. Detriot looks tough, Cleveland scrappy, the Angels solid and suddenly the Mariners are a pain in the ass.

    Enough mid season pontificating- Play ball!

    Reply

  3. drleather2001

    10 years ago

    Congrats on the vagaries of how you spend your days, Seth.

    Coco as MVP? Hmm…One could also go with Matsuzaka on the basis that his mammoth pitch counts have allowed Francona to save his bullpen for days when other pitchers don’t… quite… have it.

    Any thoughts on trade deadline maneuvers?

    Reply

  4. sonomasox

    10 years ago

    Wish Coco had caught that ball in the extra innings Detroit game, but I guess the fact that he was anywhere close to that ball proves his worth.

    I may have chosen the RemDawg instead for taking a shot of cortisone during the game AND continuing to announce like a true professional, plus his air guitar skills.

    Reply

  5. Fins

    10 years ago

    In 18 games played, starting with the day San Fran (and Barry) hit town, Coco has hit .403 with 13 runs (of his 44), 4 (of his 5 total) HR’s, 12 (of his 28) RBI’s.

    I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

    And yes, this is tongue in cheek. Sort of.

    Reply

  6. rog

    10 years ago

    The question is: does Coco’s great D make him a stronger candidate to stay on the team and contribute or does it just make him more attractive trade bait? I’m not that anxious to see if Ellsbury (and Bucholtz for that matter) do well in the postseason yet.

    Reply

  7. HFXBOB

    10 years ago

    Hey, good to have you back. I like the Coco pick for daring to be different and for giving a lot of value to defence. You mentioned Beckett talking to reporters about Coco’s catches. Something I really like about Beckett is the show he puts on when Coco or somebody else makes a great catch for him. It must fire up all the fielders to play behind Beckett or Papelbon with all that emotion they put out.

    Also on Coco he really has shown signs of busting out with the bat. The grand slam he crushed off the Coke bottles showed how strong he is. Looks like he’s a keeper after all. Now if only that guy in right starts to earn some of his pay we’ll be alright.

    Reply

  8. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    I’m glad you are giving Coco the praise he earned in recent weeks at the plate and in the outfield. I hope folks outside of Boston are aware of his defense this year so they don’t simply hand the Gold Glove to Torii Hunter (as they do with Jeter) based on past performance and/or overall value. Yeah, it would’ve been great if he’d made that catch in Detroit, but I think it’s good enough that he makes 3 out of 4 sliding catches attempted. (The Cora fist-in-the-air-before-the-catch-was-made was one of the coolest moments of the season, and a testament to Cora’s hyper-awareness of what’s going on in the game whenever he’s in uniform.) If there’s an outfielder to shop around, it’s gotta be Wily Mo. His 10,000-foot homer in Baltimore was great, but his value to this team seems pretty low. It would be good for the Sox and good for Wily Mo’s career if he were playing for a team that can afford to let him be the work-in-progress that he clearly is.

    Reply

  9. johnw

    10 years ago

    Quirky pick, but not a bad one. I’d go with Beckett or Youkilis myself — Beckett now looks like the ten-year ace the Sox thought they were getting, and Youk is tremendously valuable for his BA, OBA, and ability to move around in the lineup.

    But I can see the case for Crisp. Defense in general is underrated, and outfield defense is even more so. I’ve noticed that teams with better-than-expected pitching staffs usually have fast outfielders (the Cardinals of the 80s, for instance). Crisp certainly helps in that regard; the current OF of Manny, Coco and Drew is a significant improvement over the Manny, Damon and Nixon of a couple years ago.

    Defensively, I’d love to see an outfield of Coco in left, Ellsbury in center, and Drew in right. But the Sox would need to get more power from other positions.

    Reply

  10. branatical

    10 years ago

    Beckett’s move to ace of the staff makes him my first half MVP.

    That said, I keep telling people Coco will win the GG this year. My New York friends laugh when I say that. They’re used to a short stop with poor range winning the GG. Coco’s exceptional fielding is that much sweeter with Torre barely playing Damon in center these days. I look forward to watching Coco through the remainder of his contract. I’d like to see him make it to the All Star game next year.

    Coco in left, Ellsbury in center, and Drew in right – I like this defensively – the extra pop could come from A-Rod at third base, hitting third.

    Go Sox

    Reply

  11. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    It’s hard to imagine Theo Epstein and his philosophy allowing for the $30-million-per-year contract that A-Rod is likely to command after this year. They’ve been trying to move Manny’s contract for years, and they seem to have established a salary ceiling of about $13-15 million annually for their everyday players. Are they really going to pay A-Rod twice as much? Wouldn’t that open the floodgates? And that’s before we even get into the considerable problems of hiring a player that many Boston fans endearingly know as Slappy McBluelips, Gay-Rod, Stray-Rod, A-Fraud, etc. The Yankees have many reasons to lock him up for the rest of his career––build a younger team around him, bring the career home-run title back to New York, etc.––whereas if he came to Boston he’d be signing up for years of abuse from jilted Yankee fans and years of ambivalence from Sox fans who simply prefer to hate him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he headed to Chicago or the west coast, putting the AL East experience behind him. He’d be under less scrutiny in Anaheim or L.A., and there’s plenty of strip clubs out there. Close to Vegas, too.

    Reply
  12. […] This year, the highlight reel catches have continued, but he seems to be improving in center field. A lot. Apparently, Bill James has been raving about his defense, and Seth Mnookin has officially named him the Red Sox first-half MVP. Baseball Musings has done an analysis on Crisp’s defense, and has quantitatively determined that he is significantly better this year than last year. […]

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  13. […] Yup: that’s a lame headline. And it’s not accurate. That’s fine; it’s Monday, and, as you can tell from the absence of recent posts, I’ve been a bit fried. But given my perennial love of the underdog, I need to give shout outs to Julio and CC. Lugo, bless his speedy little heart, has gone from a hitting something approximating .00004 in June to coming in damn near .500 in July. (Seriously, how many of you just knew he was gonna smack that grand salami off Contreras? And how awesome was his man-love hug with Manny when he got back to the dugout?) Coco’s also been lighting it up at the plate; more importantly, he’s still playing some truly awe inspiring defense. (I can’t remember which game it was, but sometime in the early going of a game against the Chi Sox he ran down a long fly that looked like a sure run-scoring double…and as I’ve said before, saving a run is as good as scoring one.) […]

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  14. […] 5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Coco. […]

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  15. […] It’s been a curious season…to say the least. While I know I remain in the minority in claiming that thus far this season, Coco has been the team’s MVP — and as far as I’m concerned, it’s really not even that close — there are likely a much higher number of folks who share my sentiment that Hideki “Darkman” Okajima and Mike “Don’t Call it a Comeback” Lowell are the next two most valuable members of the Crimson Hose. (Why Okie and not Paps? Well, Papelbon was expected to dominate; Okie has saved the bullpen time and time again, and more than a few times has enabled JP to be in a position to get that save in the ninth. As for Lowell, well, he’s picked up an oddly anemic offense.) […]

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  16. […] Center field: Johnny Jesus v. Coocoo for Coco Crisp: My crush on Coco is well-documented; the rest of the world’s crush on Damon is just as well documented, if not more so. I’m tempted to mark this one a draw, but I’ll give JD the nod, even though I still believe Coco’s defense was one of the two or three most important components of the ‘07 team. 2007, 4, 2004, 3. […]

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  17. […] In the frenzy of planning, I also haven’t had a chance to congratulate the Gold Glove voters on getting at least one position right this year (Youk at first) or castigated them on ridiculously blowing what should have been a no-brainer (Coco in center). (Another aside: if, indeed, Coco ends up patrolling center for some other team next year, which wouldn’t surprise me, I will, as most of you likely know, be disappointed. I really love watching that little dude patrol the outfield…and I still think he made a huge difference this year. And I’m not just saying that because the wife had lunch with Jacoby yesterday and came away cooing about how “nice” and “smart” he is.) I also haven’t had a chance to voice my respect for the deal Curt took to stay in Boston. I know – anyone making $8 mil a year isn’t exactly roughing it – but Schill clearly could have made more on the open market. It’s rare these days that an athlete says “it’s not about the money” and means it; here was a situation in which one actually did. And despite my efforts to be clear-eyed about this whole business of baseball thing, I’m glad #38 will be retiring in Boston uni…and I hope when he gets elected into the Hall (and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no longer any real question as to whether he should make it) he’ll be wearing a Sox cap. […]

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