Sunday, January 29, 2006


All things considered, I really like this deal for the Red Sox.

The Sox now have a speedy, switch hitting leadoff hitter to replace Johnny Damon.

Though he played left field for Cleveland last year, Crisp was a center fielder prior to the emergence of Grady Sizemore in 2005. While the average AL left fielder hit .278/.333/.437 in 2005, Crisp hit .300/.345/.465.  And even if he'd played center, only three other center fielders hit for a higher average than Crisp.

In each of his four seasons, Crisp's numbers have continued to improve. His average steadily climbed from .260 to .266 to .297. to .300 last year. He also collected 62 extra-base hits last season (more than Damon), compared to a total of 77 in his first three. It's a trend the Sox brass expect to continue.

While the Sox gave up 22-year-old prospect Andy Marte to acquire Crisp, Crisp is only 26 himself and is just starting to emerge. Right now, the primary difference between Crisp and Marte is that Crisp has proven himself at the big league level, and shown that he's more than just a prospect.

A classic line-drive hitter, Crisp hit 42 his doubles last year - fifth-best in the American League. He should be a fixture on second base, just waiting to score, for years to come.

As for the relief pitchers exchanged, the Sox managed to get younger. The 29-year-old Riske has fanned 318 batters in 317 career innings. That's a higher strike out ratio than Guillermo Mota. And Riske always has been able to get both lefties and righties out, which makes him more than just a matchup reliever. Last year, righties hit just .204 vs. Riske, and lefties had little more success, hitting only .213.

Riske had an amazing WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.96 last season. To give that some framework, only four AL relievers (New York's Mariano Rivera - 0.87, Cleveland's Bobby Howry - 0.89, Chicago's Cliff Politte - 0.94, and Toronto's Justin Speier - 0.95) registered a better WHIP than Riske.

This deal makes the Sox stronger not only now, but in the future as well. Center field was the current priority right, not third base. Kevin Youkilis is another young infielder, and the Sox can always move him back to third if necessary in the future.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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