When the Oakland Athletics signed Coco Crisp to a two-year, $22 million contract extension earlier this winter, they weren’t paying for his power. Despite having a career year power numbers wise in 2013, when he hit 22 home runs with an isolated power of .183, the Athletics knew he probably couldn’t duplicate that type of production again. Billy Beane extended him because, as a switch-hitting leadoff hitter who steals bases with ease and plays a mean centerfield, he fits in perfectly with the Oakland Athletics way The fact that he has some extra pop in his bat is just icing on the cake, but at 34 years old, will Crisp ever hit 20 home runs again? The short answer is no.
At 5’10”, 180 pounds, Crisp doesn’t have the look of a power hitter. He looks like exactly what he is — a speedy leadoff hitter. Crisp made his Major League debut in 2002, and up until 2013, had hit 86 career home runs with only three seasons of double-digit totals. That’s just under eight a year. He hit 15 home runs in 2004 and 16 home runs (a career high) the following year. Six seasons would pass before he would hit more than 10 again.
And then 2013 rolled around and his home run totals jumped off the page. Take a look at Crisp’s power numbers since he joined the Oakland Athletics in 2010.
Aside from 2010 when Crisp only appeared in 75 games, Crisp’s power numbers have gradually risen each season. Not only is this surprising because he is getting up there in age and doesn’t have the build of a home run hitter, but the O.co Coliseum is an extreme pitcher’s park, according to ParkFactors.com. The shortest part of the outfield is down the left and right field line at 330 feet. Crisp has a lot more power from the left side of the plate, and is a strict pull hitter (he has never hit a home run to center field in the Coliseum) when it comes to home runs — 73 of his 113 career home runs have come when batting left handed.
If I were a betting man, which I’m not because I always lose, I would bet that Crisp’s home run totals start to return to his career norm. His slugging percentage is up (.446), but he has just five dingers through 56 games entering Thursday.
The above chart shows Crisp’s isolated power from last season. As I mentioned earlier, Crisp is a pull power hitter when he bats lefty and feasts on pitches on the inner half of the plate. Now take a look at his isolated power this year.
Four of his five home runs have come as a left-handed hitter, but Crisp is no longer dominating the inside zone as a lefty, at least not as much as he did in 2013. He’s also struggling with pitches in the middle half, and this is a big reason why I don’t think he’ll be able to keep up his high home run total.
Despite this, I have to give credit where credit is due; he’s having a terrific all-around season and is definitely earning the money the A’s gave him on his extension. He’s hitting .282 (highest since 2008), his on-base percentage is over 40 points higher than his career mark and he’s walking more than he ever has. Billy Beane knew Crisp wasn’t a 20-homer guy, but he did know that he was exactly the type of player the Oakland Athletics needed around.