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What's Wrong With Covelli Crisp?

Coco Crisp has had a somewhat rough season; after a productive (but short) start to the year, he fractured his left index finger and missed games from April 9 to May 27. He was slotted back into the leadoff spot in the lineup for a few games before Red Sox manager Terry Francona placed him towards the bottom of the lineup, letting Kevin Youkilis' +.400 OBP spark the offense.

For the season, Crisp has only hit .267/.323/.390, short of his 2004-2005 combined line of .299/.345/.456. Is the injury to his finger to blame for this? After all, no negative effects were supposed to linger from the broken finger, but his performance has certainly been somewhat south of expectations.

Crisp's walk rate has remained steady (6.6%, 6.7%, and 7.3% the past three years), although it was never that high to begin with. His low batting average is the culprit when it comes to his low OBA, and in some respects, his low slugging percentage. His Isolated Power from 2004-2005 was .157, while his 2006 Iso is only .123. Is he striking out more often? In 2004, Crisp struck out in 12.9 percent of all PAs; 2005, 12.3 percent, and 2006 14.4 percent. So there is an increase, but not a highly significant one. It is something to note though, as that is a few less balls in play.

Crisp is struggling more against right-handed pitching than he normally does. Measuring from the time he became a markedly improved hitter (2004-2005), Crisp hit .309/.354/.460 against righties, and .280/.337/.449 against left-handers. In 2006, Crisp is only hitting .258/.313/.373 against right-handers, but maintained his effectiveness against southpaws (.289/.343/.433). I'm willing to chalk that up to small sample size, considering he only has 349 at-bats (252 against RHP, 97 versus LHP).

Coco Crisp Batted-Ball Data 2004-2006
2004 CLE 3.7 19.7% .322 49.0% N/A 12.6%
2005 CLE 3.5 19.6% .326 46.2% 14.0% 10.1%
2006 BOS 3.9 16.3% .300 46.9% 12.3% 6.7%

What can we infer from taking a look at his batted-ball data? He's taking more pitches per at-bat, which could account for a few extra strikeouts, as well as the extra walks. He's cut down on his infield flies by a few percentage points, and his groundballs are steady. His power is down somewhat, as he is hitting fewer homers per flyball.

The most interesting aspect of his batted-ball data is the decline in Batting Average on Balls in Play. After two years above the .320 mark, he is down at .300 this season. Considering he has a drop in his line drive rate, it might be easy to see where the drop in hits on balls in play has come from. If you add in .020 to his BABIP, and assume that all of the additional hits would be singles, his line is an improved .287/.343/.410. Consider that a few of those missing line drives should be doubles, and you can bump his slugging back up a few more points. That also would not be too far off from his PECOTA projected line of .302/.353/.460.

Let's take a look at his spray charts to see if the flight of the balls has changed any. The first two seasons are at Jacobs Field, while the third is obviously Fenway Park:

Without getting into too much detail, it looks as if Crisp has stopped having success pulling the ball, at least when he bats left-handed. When he does hit the ball to the right side, he more often than not hits a weak grounder. Crisp has hit into 52 groundouts at Fenway, and unless my eyes are lying, all but 10 have been to the right side of the infield. This would help explain why his numbers against right-handers are down, except I can't say with any certainty what is causing it. As I've said multiple times before, making a decision on Crisp's abilities using this season's data seems wrong. I'd much prefer to wait until the 2007 season is over before seeing which set of data is more of a fluke. As of now, it looks as if 2006 is the throw away, but time will tell us for sure.