Saturday, January 28, 2006

Revamping the Red Sox

It's the MLB Hot Stove season, which means that teams are constantly changing directions and putting a new product on the field. Other than the Mets (who have aggressively clawed their way to the upper echelon of the NL), no team has undergone more changes than the Red Sox over the past two years. Two-thirds of the team that won the 2004 World Series is gone. GM Theo Epstein left and then didn't leave and now he's back. Meanwhile, whoever is running things in the front office continues to churn through the roster like they are a bunch of guys doing their first challenge on Pro Trade Sports. The latest and greatest move? Finalizing the deal with Cleveland that sends out stud prospect Andy Marte and a gaggle of relievers in exchange for Coco Crisp. Is it a good trade? Can Crisp adequately replace Johnny Damon in center field? Are the Red Sox better or worse than last year? Should they have made all those changes after winning the title? As my buddy, Higa used to say on our radio show ... "React!"


Adam Hoff said...

We can - and hopefully will - examine all of Boston's moves in this space, but let's start with Coco Crisp. Can he replace Damon?

First of all, Johnny Damon is a solid name. It has a good ring to it. But Coco Crisp? That is one of the great sports names of all time. The combination of Coco Puffs and Cookie Crisp is a tough one to beat.

Beyond the name, there is the concept of production. Damon was pretty durable, he could hit for average with surprising power, he got on base, he drove in runs from the leadoff spot, he scored a ton of runs and stole some bases, and he was a solid center fielder with a weak arm. Plus, he seemed to be a leader in the clubhouse. So that is what Crisp will have to measure up against. Lets take them one at a time.

Durability - Damon has played in at least 145 games in each of his ten full seasons. Crisp finally hit the 145 game mark last year, in his second full season and fourth campaign overall. This works in two ways. One one hand, Damon has a proven track record of staying on the field. On the other hand, Damon is 32 and has played 1,555 career games, while Crisp is 26 and has played 415. So the youngster would seem to have more miles left in the tank. Edge: Draw.

Hitting for average - Johnny D is a career .290 hitter coming off seasons of .304 and .316 for the Sox. Crisp is .287 and coming off .297 and .300 in his first full seasons. Even at differing stages, Crisp stacks up okay. But when you consider that Damon didn't hit .300 until his fourth year in the league (when he hit .307, followed by his career-best mark of .327), Crisp appears to be ahead of the pace. It wouldn't be surprising to see Coco hit for a higher average this season. Edge: Draw.

Power - Damon hit 30 home runs during the past two seasons in Boston, while Crisp hit 31 during the same time frame. Throw in the fact that Crisp hits right-handed and he should hit for mor power in Boston (although Damon may have more home runs this year while playing in NY). Edge: Crisp.

Getting on base and scoring runs - This is Crisp's major weakness at this point. He has almost as many career doubles as he does walks, and therefore, he doesn't get on base or score runs like he should. His OBP was .344 over the past two seasons and he scored 164 runs, while Damon's OBP was .373 with 340 runs scored. Again though, Crisp is way ahead of Damon's numbers through two full seasons. Edge: Damon.

Stolen bases - Damon stole 26 or more bases for six straight seasons, but has only nabbed 37 total over the past two years. Crisp has 35 during that time. Nobody runs a whole lot in Boston though, not when you can score by waiting for Manny or Ortiz to jack one out. Edge: Draw.

Defense - I think Crisp is an upgrade here. He has great range and a much better throwing arm than Damon. Obviously, Damon covers a lot of ground, has more experience, and knows Fenway better, but I really think Crisp will be better. Slight Edge: Crisp.

Overall - It is close for the short term, as Damon takes his leadership and experience and uncanny ability to produce runs over to the Bronx. However, it seems clear that Crisp is way ahead of Damon's career arch and that he could wind up being just as good in his prime. Short term edge: Damon. Long term edge: Crisp.

Anonymous said...

I am a Red Sox fan and while many are not thrilled with Crisp as our centerfielder instead of Johnny Damon, I have been telling my friends exactly what you said. Right now, this year, it may not make the Sox better, but looking long term, like when Papelbon, Pedroia, DelCarmen, and Hansen, are all with the team, Crisp will be the better player. It is often said that players hit their prime around age 28. Damon is 32 and Crisp is only 26. How can people not see that Crisp is the better long term solution.