Coco Crisp: From speedster to power hitter?

Ezra Shaw

As Coco Crisp heads into his age 34 season, are we starting to see a shift in the way he plays the game?

Coco Crisp and the Oakland Athletics recently came together on a two-year extension that will keep him by the bay through the 2016 season, right before he's about to turn 37. It's a solid deal and one that is sure to make A's fans very happy, as Crisp is a leader in the clubhouse and a major fan favorite among Oakland's followers.

Given the fact that Crisp is getting older, it's obvious that the A's are paying him for what he's going to do over the next couple of years, not what he's done in the last few. Billy Beane is an intelligent general manager and knows that the speed in Crisp's game is starting to deteriorate, meaning he had to, and will continue to have to, change his game to be a productive player. Leadership isn't worth $16 million a year, after all.

But what type of player Crisp is going to be for the remainder of his time in Oakland remains to be seen. In fact, it's changing. We saw it last year. Crisp's game has never been purely about stealing bases, but during his time in Oakland, he's been as active on the basepaths as he's ever been. Over half of his career steals (141) have come since he joined the A's prior to the 2010 season. That includes a career-best 49 back in 2011.

This is what Crisp's four years in Oakland look like so far:

Year G AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI R SB wRC+
2010 75 .279 .342 .438 .779 8 38 51 32 114
2011 136 .264 .314 .379 .693 8 54 69 49 92
2012 120 .259 .325 .418 .742 11 46 68 39 106
2013 131 .261 .335 .444 .779 22 66 93 21 117

Obviously there's quite a disparity in what Crisp did in those first three years against what he did in 2013. The home runs are way up, as high as they have been in his career, and his slugging percentage was at its highest since 2005. His wRC+ was the best mark in the bigs.

Now one year is obviously not fully indicative of a change in style of play. Nonetheless, it would behoove Crisp to continue that shift from a guy whose game is built on what he can do on the basepaths to an established bat that can do some damage. While it's tough to base a change in style off one year, some of what Crisp did at the plate, in terms of his pitch selection and where he's putting the ball, may indicate that he's already acknowledged his changing game.

His ground ball to fly ball ratio was at just 1.03 in 2013, his lowest since 2008. He hit more fly balls than he has at any point in his career, with a homer to fly ball ratio of 12.4%. That's not an outlandish number by any means, but it's the highest figure he's seen since he broke into the league full time in 2003. His infield hit percentage was just 4.9%, the third lowest mark of his career. Does any of that indicate the fact that he's shifting from a base stealer to a legitimate power hitter? Not necessarily. The sample size isn't large enough. However, such a shift would make plenty of sense for an aging player like Coco Crisp.

And perhaps that's something that Beane and the A's are already aware of and are expecting from Crisp. They didn't sign a recently turned 34-year-old to a two-year extension with the expectation that he'll continue to be a force on the basepaths. A shift from what he did in his first three years in Oakland to more of what he did last year should be the expectation moving forward.

...

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Randy Holt is a writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @RandallPnkFloyd.

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