Regarding the burning question of Coco Crisp's position in The Year of Our Mayan Lord 2012, there is new word from Cereal Man himself ...
Crisp reiterates what he told The Chronicle last week - if he's the #Athletics' best CF, he believes he should play there.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 23, 2012
Coco Crisp used to be an excellent center fielder; in 2004 and '5 and again in 2007, his performance in the outfield was among the best in the majors. Some of that came in left field, but the required skills are roughly the same in left and center fields.
* According to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, he saved roughly 69 runs in those years.
* Baseball-Reference.com's Total Zone Rating has him saving roughly 45 runs in those years.
* John Dewan's method has Crisp saving 39 runs in those years.
Since then? Not so much. All three methods suggest that Crisp has been roughly average in center field. Now, he's been injured frequently since 2007 and I don't doubt that a healthy Coco Crisp has better defensive statistics. But what's to say he won't be injured again in 2012? Also, he's no longer a young man by baseball standards. Defensively, players typically peak in their early- to mid-20s. Coco's 32.
Which isn't to say he might not be better in center field, right now, than Yoenis Cespedes. I mean, it doesn't seem all that likely to me, considering the scouting reports. But it's absolutely possible.
So what? There's not nearly as much difference between center field and left field as you might think. The Yankees might be better with Brett Gardner in center field and Curtis Granderson in left, but by how many runs? Five? Ten, maybe? Is giving up a few runs per season worth keeping Granderson happy? I think the Yankees decided it is.
Do the A's need to worry about keeping Coco Crisp happy? Probably not. And there's another, much bigger consideration: maximizing the value of Yoenis Cespedes. Crisp won't be around forever. Would it make sense to get Cespedes accustomed to a corner-outfield spot, only to shift him back to center a year or two later? Hardly. Also, Cespedes will have more trade value as a center fielder.
Sure, Bob Melvin says there will be an outfield battle this spring. Sorry. I don't believe him. Not really. Unless Cespedes just looks ridiculously bad in center field, the position should be his.