Just about everyone knows Carl Crawford is an excellent player — some are even convinced he’s the best player at his respective position. Without sounding too much like Crawford’s agent, I intend to make my case for why the Yankees
would benefit from need Carl Crawford.
1) The man has wheels. Fangraphs gave Crawford a “speed score” of 8.7 which leads the league. Frankly, this score independently does not have a lot of value in my eyes. There’s a big difference in being fast and being effective. One stat that does translate into something of significance though, is his 41 stolen bases thus far. Have I mentioned that over Crawford’s career, he’s averaged about 55 stolen bases per year? As I watch the Yankees, I become increasingly convinced that within the next season or so (or right now…), a new leadoff hitter will be required. If the leadoff man can get on base and provide 50 steals at an 80%+ success rate, that’s not to shabby. In other words, not only can the guy run, but he can run well. This leads me to my second point.
2) The man can get on base. As it turns out, Crawford is a pretty good batter. He’s currently batting .294 which is basically exactly in line with his career totals. He posts a solid OBP (.346) as well. What I like best though about Crawford’s offensive ability is the fact that we’re not talking about simply singles (i.e., a cut of the Juan Pierre cloth). He has 26 doubles on the season and is tied for first among all LF in triples with 8. One of the few aspects of Brett Gardner‘s game that I wish was better is his slugging (.381). Crawford is hovering at .473 (2010 OPS is .819). Crawford has 15 HR compared to Brett’s 5. Now it’s not necessarily a leadoff man’s job to go yard, but it’s nice to know he can. After the first rotation through the lineup, batting order doesn’t really play much of a factor. I’d just assume 1-9 are all capable of the long ball. Perhaps Gardner will hit for more power in the future, but I’m not sure his style of hitting necessarily warrants that type of metamorphosis.
3) What about Crawford’s defense? I hear it’s not too shabby either. Prior to this season’s start, many of us were skeptical of Gardner’s defense. It was a gaudy number in the mid teens and all the stat heads (including myself) were covering their proverbial bases with the “small sample size” routine. “He’s good,” we would say. “But, he might not be quite as good as his UZR states because of his limited exposure.” Interestingly enough, here we are in September, and Brett still has a tantalizing UZR of 12.8 (2nd best in The Bigs). Okay, so maybe there’s some truth there.
I suppose that if you have to be beat despite an excellent performance, it’s best to be beat by someone who’s utterly nasty, a.k.a. Crawford. The guy has a 22.1 UZR (36 UZR/150) in 2010. This isn’t a mirage either. Over the course of his career he’s always been considered an excellent fielder and has the stats to back it up. Additionally, the Yankees would have Crawford under contract during his prime years (age 29-33 years I’m guessing). The idea of having some combination of Crawford, Curtis Granderson, and Gardner in the outfield makes me giddy. That almost qualifies as a “2009 Seattle Mariner Kill-Me-Now-I-Can’t-Believe-I-Have-To-Watch-These-Guys-Rob-My-Team’s-Offense”-caliber defense. It’s like having 20 Denard Spans sprinkled all over the outfield. Get the idea? Let’s keep the cumulative Yankee UZR heading in the right direction (especially as we have the entire left side of our infield nearing the wrong end of their “30′s” years).
4) Crawford provides the Yankees with flexibility. He’s young and durable. Having him in the outfield allows the Yankees to platoon Granderson. Call me a cynic, but I am dubious of the long-term effects of Kevin Long’s magic touch. My guess is that Granderson will always be a pretty brutal batter in terms of splits. It also allows the Yankees to give Gardner a breather once in a while. Brett the Jet has admitted to being fatigued which has probably impacted his rate of stolen base attempts. Or, should the Yankees consider trading Brett, they could sell high for once. There is no guarantee that Gardner duplicates his stats next season. He might decline back to where his initial projections originally fell, as the league adapts to him. At the very least, it allows guys like Nick Swisher to get a breather and there is no longer such a thing as a useless 4th outfielder (i.e., Randy Winn).
5) I know like many members of the Yankee faithful, I cringe every time I hear the name, “Carl.” It’s time the Yankees restored faith in the name and hired a professional. I promise you Crawford will not disappoint. If he ends up playing for another team in the AL, we’ll all find ourselves cursing the day, as he’ll continue to punish the Yankees. There’s a reason why Crawford has accumulated a career WAR of 32.9 over 8 seasons.