I wanted to do a quick Wins Above Replacement post on Joe Crede and Pablo Sandoval. I’ve been pro Crede this offseason for a couple of reasons. He’s essentially a league average hitter with plus-defense that’s battled injuries over the past two seasons. Because he’s been stuck in the trainers room so much lately, he might sign a short-term — maybe even a 1-year — deal. I like Crede for a number of reasons but before we get started let’s check out my assumptions that I used to compare Joe and Pablo.
~ I’ve set the league wOBA to .332
~ I’m using CHONE’s defensive projections with a combination of plus/minus and bUZR for the defensive stats. For example: CHONE has Crede projected as a +10 run defensive third baseman in 2009. In 2008 bUZR had him at +5.4 in 800 innings. In that same 800 inning sample, plus/minus had Crede at +10 runs. I feel comfortable calling Crede a +10 run defender going forward but I like to try and be conservative with defensive numbers, so I knocked Crede down to +8 runs for next season. Pablo rated as a -3 run defender at third and I think that’s a little generous, again I’m going to be conservative and I pushed him down a little to -6 runs. A -6 run third baseman is basically in the group of: Carlos Guillen, Jose Bautista, and Casey Blake defenders.
~ Replacement level is set to 2.25 wins per 700 PA’s. This, and the rest of the values, will get adjusted by playing time.
~ I used Marcels and the Oliver projections for a quick estimate of hitting abilities. I split the difference between Marcels and Oliver to call Crede a .325 wOBA hitter in 2009. I’m calling Pablo a .332 wOBA hitter for 2009. Marcel has him rated much higher but his reliability score was too low to use the projection. I decided to use the Oliver projection for Sandoval. If I recall correctly, it’s pretty close to the ZiPS projection for him. Oliver includes minor league data in it’s projections so Pablo will get some credit for the work he’s done in the minor leagues.
~ When all is said and done, I’ve got Crede projected as a +2.8 WAR third baseman in 700 PA’s. Pablo is projected to a +1.9 WAR third baseman in 700 PA’s. But, because players rarely collect 700 PA’s in a season — especially Crede — I’ve made data tables showing their respective WAR’s with different playing times. Playing times are in percentage format. A 30% playing time works out to 210 PA’s (700*.3 = 210).
Let’s look at our data tables:
Who is Joe Crede?
Let’s talk about Crede. He’s battled injury problems over the last two seasons. Between 2007-2008 he only collected a grand total of 502 PA’s or about 70% of playing time in a single season. So, Crede does come with significant health risks but I’d like to ask you to look past them for a second. What Crede brings to the table is plus-defense and a near league average bat. His defense has always been one of his strong points. From 2003-2006 Crede played 1,000+ innings per season at third base while posting the following bUZR/150 scores: +7.3, +2.6, +3.2, and +13. In 2007 he played just a hair under 400 innings at third base because of injuries but he was still a plus-defender with a bUZR of +5.8. That’s pretty amazing to rack up +5.8 runs above average in just 400 innings. Last season Crede proved that he can still be a top defender at third base. He only played 834 innings because of — you guessed it — injuries, but he was above average again. His bUZR score was +5.4 runs above average. As I stated above, in 2009, CHONE has Crede projected as a +10 defender.
We know that Crede can do one thing very well, and that’s play his position defensively. Meanwhile, despite penciling him in at third base, we don’t really know how good Pablo Sandoval can defend the position. I’m thinking he’s going to end up as a below-average defender at third base. In 2006, his first season in the minors, he played 21 games at third base but the majority of the time he played at first — 91 games to be exact. Since 2006, Pablo never played third base again until he fielded 85 experimental innings at the position last season. From 2007-2008 he mostly caught and played first. I think expecting Sandoval to handle even 600+ innings at third base in the major leagues is a bit much.
At the plate, Crede can be frustrating to watch. He doesn’t walk much — a career BB% of 5.8 –and he’s not going to hit for a high batting average. However, what Crede can do is hit the ball hard when he makes contact. He’s got an above average career ISO — .192 — and he hit for good power last season with an ISO of .212. When you look at everything Crede does, he’s about a league average hitter and that has some value.
Why He Makes Sense
Crede makes sense for a couple of reasons. His value is pretty low at the moment and it’s very possible that he’ll have to settle for a short term deal to rebuild some of his value. Scott Boras is his agent — and we all know the ridiculous things he’ll say for clients — but I would be truly surprised if Crede signed for a deal that exceeded 2-years in length. In this market teams just aren’t going to give Crede more than 2-years to prove he’s healthy. So, we’ve got an obviously valuable player — if Crede can take 490 PA’s or more he’ll break the +2 WAR threshold — but with a dinged reputation. Signing Crede to a short term deal would be a moderate risk with a nice payoff. But, consider this, if the Giants sign Joe Crede and he only makes it to 400 PA’s in 2009, that would be bad, right?
If the Giants are truly interested in bringing Pablo along at third base Crede would help offset some of the workload that Pablo is nowhere close to being able to handle. In our scenario Joe Crede plays 400 PA’s and then his back keeps him out of the lineup. The Giants ease Pablo into third base with the remaining 200-300 PA’s that will likely be there for the taking. This way you can slowly bring along Pablo at position that he has little experience with. While Crede is playing third the Giants can swap Pablo around between first base and catcher — two positions he’s more experienced at — to get him playing time. The real loser in a deal that would bring in Joe Crede would be Travis Ishikawa as Pablo would probably take over first base. But, Ishikawa would still receive some playing time he just wouldn’t be the starter. Which is something I’m OK with. Pablo is the better prospect and he should be given preference at this point for playing time.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers
Going back to the Wins Above Replacement data table above you can see some of Crede’s appeal. At 60% playing time he’s going to give you as many wins as Pablo would give you at 85% playing time at third base. This is a good spot to say that playing time for starters tends to be between %80-85, projecting much more than that isn’t a good idea. So, it’s unlikely that Pablo is going to be playing into the %90′s. If the Giants crack medical staff somehow coaxes 490 PA’s out of Crede — 70% playing time — he’ll reward the team with +2 wins above replacement. Pablo has a very, very little chance to break the +2 win threshold. In fact, if Crede plays closer to +10 runs on defense at third base and Pablo plays worse than -6 runs on defense — which I think is a very real possibility — the separation gap is even larger. This is why defense is so important, Pablo is a better hitter than Crede but the difference between their defenses is +14 runs. That’s a pretty big gap to make up.
In the past, I’ve been anti-Joe Crede. If you search this blog you’ll find a couple of posts on him from a year or two ago but I think he represents a nice buy for the Giants. He should be cheap, or drastically reduced in price, and he’ll address a key issue for the team right now. I’m a gigantic fan of Sandoval but I think expecting him to play a full season at third base is wishcasting. He hasn’t played the position since 2006 and for a man with his size, there’s a good chance it won’t work. Removing Omar Vizquel and sticking in Edgar Rentria at shortstop — while good for the overall team — is going to downgrade the left side of the infield. Renteria should be a slightly below average defender. If Pablo is the starting third baseman the left side of the infield has a chance to be a little unsightly. I’m very dedicated to getting Pablo 500 PA’s or more next season, just not at third base. Joe Crede will outplay Sandoval at third and while upgrading the infield defense.
Comment Starter: Pro Joe? Or not? And something I’d love to hear, how do you feel about Pablo defensively at third base? Try not to use the phrases ‘He moves well for a big man!’ and ‘He’s fast for his size!’ and we’ll be fine.