This past week the Houston Astros decided to non-tender Ty Wigginton rather than extend a contract to him and increase his salary through arbitration. The Chron article that I just linked to suggests that after arbitration, Wigginton would have been looking at a salary around $6M. He made $4.35M last year. Because the Astros did not tender Wigginton a contract, he’s now a free agent that can sign with any team, including the Astros. Wigginton came to the Astros in a 2007 trade that sent Dan Wheeler to the Devil Rays. Wigginton enjoyed his time in Houston, especially last season in which he had his best offensive performance to date. Over 386 AB’s, the 30-year-old hit: .285/.350/.526 with 23 HR’s. That’s good for an OPS+ of 128.
In his career Wigginton has played all over the diamond. The Astros mainly used him at 3B last season but he also played 31 games in LF. In his career Wigginton has played 527 games at 3B, 120 games at 2B, 84 games at 1B, and 37 games in LF. The Giants — and many other teams — have openings at third base. Should the team consider Wigginton as starting material at third? Pablo Sandoval is currently penciled in as the third base starter but in Sabes-Speak, that probably doesn’t mean much. Manny Burriss was “penciled in” as the starting shortstop and now he’s competing for the second base job, next week he could be parking cars. On the surface the Giants have publicly stated that they are comfortable with Pablo Sandoval at third base, but I would wager there is a good bit of discomfort in the idea of the big man playing third. Most of the leaked rumors in this offseason have dealt with third basemen like Jorge Cantu or Edwin Encarnacion. There’s also been some Garret Atkins talk. There has been some rumored interest in Wigginton by the Giants with a speculated near trade almost happening at the Winter Meetings.
Let’s take a look at Wigginton and see if he’s a fit.
As we mentioned above, in 2008 Ty Wigginton had his best season ever in the batters box. He flashed power, got on base, and hit for his highest batting average since 2002. Let’s examine the last three seasons from Wigginton to see what he’s done with the bat.
I’m using OPS+ for simplicity and FanGraph’s new wRAA measure which is very similar to bRAA — batting runs above average. wRAA is how many runs above average a player contributed with the bat. It includes SB/CS but doesn’t look at RBOE. bRAA includes RBOE but doesn’t include SB/CS.
Over the past three years, Wigginton has been an above average hitter with 2008 being his best year. His wRAA of +15 is nearly twice as much as his 2006 wRAA. Wigginton excels against left-handed pitching. From 2006-2008 he has posted OPS’s of: .897, .935, and 1.055 against left-handers. The Giants struggled equally against both RHP and LHP last season. Wigginton did most of his damage at Houston. His home/road splits are pretty big. At home Wigginton hit 15 of his 22 HR’s and put up a batting line of: .343/.390/.691. On the road he put up a batting line of: .234/.316/.380. According to the First Inning’s Park Factor splits page, in 2008 Houston was the 2nd best park in the National League for RHB’s to hit home runs in. San Francisco played neutral for RHB’s in terms of home runs. Still, even if you adjust for the park he played in, Wigginton was an above average hitter in 2008. OPS+ is park adjusted and stats like wOBA* are also park adjusted. I feel comfortable calling Wigginton an average-to-above-average hitter in 2009.
So far we know that Wigginton is a better than average hitter but we must also consider his defense to asses his value. It doesn’t matter how well you can hit the ball if you’re giving away runs on defense. As we listed above, Wigginton is a versatile fielder. He’s played several positions over his career but has he played them well?
Thankfully, FanGraphs now provides UZR information — referred to as bUZR from here on because it utilizes BIS data — and we can see how well Wigginton has played defense. Because the Giants will probably look at Wigginton to play third primarily, that’s what we’ll focus on. He could see some sub-time in LF or maybe 2B, but the bulk of his playing time on defense should come at third base.
bUZR started tracking fielding in 2001 and thankfully, Wigginton didn’t make it to the majors until 2002. So, we can look at his entire career in the field at third base to see how he’s done. bUZR has Wigginton playing 4239.2 career innings at third base. Over those 4,000+ innings Wigginton’s bUZR sits at -51.9. That means that Wigginton has been worth -51.9 runs defensively at third base over his career. That’s about -5 wins over his career on defense alone. FanGraph’s UZR/150 — or bUZR prorated to 150 games in a season — has Wigginton at -14.9. Meaning that if you let Wigginton play 150 games in a season at third, he’d cost you -14.9 runs in the field. That’s not good.
Tango’s Fan Scouting Report — an annual scouting report filled out by the fans who actually watch these guys play defense — has Wigginton as an overall 37. That’s position neutral as well. In Tango’s system, a score of 50 is league average. So, by the fans, Wigginton scores as a below average fielder which matches his bUZR numbers. Tango has 7 categories in which fans can rate a player — Instincts, First Step, Speed, Hands, Release, Strength, Accuracy — and out of the 7, Wigginton scored the lowest in the ‘Hands’ category.
If go back to bUZR briefly, here is Wigginton’s numbers over the last three years at third.
Over the last three years, Wigginton actually posted his best defense at third base last season. Over 150 games he would have been worth -3.2 runs below average. That’s much more livable than his career -14.9 at third. Did Wigginton make himself a better defender? I wouldn’t say that just yet. If you notice in nearly the same sample in 2007 he was much worse than 2008. What changed over just a year? Probably nothing. Wigginton’s 2008 sample of 652 innings at third is pretty small and could have been affected by a couple of things. Maybe BIP distribution favored Wigginton this year and he was able to get to more balls because they were hit at him. In small samples for defensive stats like bUZR, BIP distribution can skew things pretty easily. It will serve our purposes better if we examine the bigger picture and not the latest 600 inning slice of data.
I think we can agree that Wigginton’s true talent level on defense is somewhere between -5 and -10 runs. Probably closer to -10 than -5.
Projecting and Valuing the Future Wiggy
Ty Wigginton is an above average hitter with below average defense at third base. But, how does he project for the future? Marcel thinks he’ll be a .347 wOBA hitter which is not quite the same hitter he was in 2008, but an above average hitter none-the-less. League wOBA in 2009 is projected to be .332 or so.
Let’s go a quick WAR on Wigginton. I’ll be using Tango’s newest positional adjustments which will give Wigginton a slight boost at third.
+0.87 wins above average for offense (using the projected .347 wOBA from Marcel and the assumed .332 wOBA league average)
-0.75 wins on defense (I decided to split it between -5 and -10 runs)
+0.25 positional adjustment for playing 3B
+2 wins for replacement level
+2.37 WAR * (.80) = 1.89 WAR
The (.80) is the projected playing time — it works out to about 550 PA’s in a season. Teams have been paying about $5M per WAR this offseason, so Wigginton should be worth about $9.45M per season.
So, if the Giants want to sign Wigginton, they’ll most likely have to pay him around $9M per season. A 2-year, $18M deal for him would be fair market value. The question is, should they?
I guess it depends on how high you are on Sandoval. If you think Sandoval can hit around a .347 wOBA and play better than -10 runs at third, then you should just let him play. If you don’t think he can, then you might want to consider Wigginton. The Marcel projection for Sandoval has him at a .355 wOBA, but Marcel doesn’t consider minor league performances and the reliability score on Pablo’s projection is pretty low. It should be taken with some skepticism. ZiPS is slightly more pessimistic and has Pablo at .330 wOBA — note, that because ZiPS doesn’t have HBP’s or RBOE’s in it’s projection Pablo could be due a few more points.
If the Giants do sign Wigginton, Pablo will slide over to 1B most likely and knock Ishikawa back to a bench-job. Pablo’s value plays the least at 1B/3B so neither position is truly appealing. I think Wigginton is a nice player. He’s an average hitter (or slightly above) with poor defense who’s done well against LHP in his career. On a team that needs a player like him — read: close to contending — he could be a nice asset. I don’t like him as much as a full-time starter at 3B mainly because of his defense. Renteria should be an slightly-below average SS and if the Giants do bring in a third baseman like Wigginton, the left-side of the infield could be pretty frustrating at times. Wigginton is a nice player, I’m just not sure how he fits in our current roster.
Comment Starter: Does Wigginton fit? (no fat jokes!)