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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Can Bill James see 2016?

Sean McAdam on the Red Sox doing their homework:
Believe it or not, that's essentially chapter and verse from a study that Bill published 23 years ago. Which is why he's able to share it with Sean McAdam. I'm sure that Bill has more recently done work that's germane to Crawford's future, but of course that's the stuff he isn't sharing. Because, you know, the Red Sox own it.

We do have some stuff, though. We know that Bill rated Crawford as just the fifth-best left fielder in the majors when he filled out his Fielding Bible ballot (almost every other voter had Crawford first or second). We know, from the baserunning section in The Bill James Handbook, that Crawford grounded into only two double lays in 132 double-play situations; he was the toughest in the majors to double up. Also, Bill writes, "Including stolen base attempts, the best baserunner in the majors was Juan Pierre -- +54 bases. The top five were Juan Pierre, Carl Crawford, Brett Gardner, Elvis Andrus, and Michael Bourn."

Bill might know something special about Crawford. What I'm seeing is a fantastic all-around player, whose solid hitting is wonderfully enhanced by his speed (and skills, and judgment) in the field and on the bases. In five years, most of that speed will probably still be there. In six and seven years, even.

What we don't know about is the walks. I don't think even Bill knows about the walks. If Crawford draws 50 walks per season, he'll be an excellent player, and worth almost every penny. If he draws 30 walks per season -- which he's basically done roughly half the time, in his career -- he'll be merely good, and overpaid.

It's a fine line, and even Bill James can't really know which side Crawford will fall on, six and seven years from now.