One Stable spot in the order

added 12/22/2007 by Scott Barzilla

If we backtrack to last season, we will find the Ty Wigginton for Dan Wheeler deal as one of the more puzzling deals of Tim Pupura's brief career. Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb were already manning the position and the club seemed to need pitching more than hitting. Both seemed to have just as good if not better pedigree than Wigginton.

Mike Lamb is now in Minnesota and Ensberg is still looking for work. Ensberg's tale is easy to explain. He just couldn't seem to consistently perform after his brilliant 2005 campaign. Lamb is a little more difficult to explain. He is a better offensive performer, but is a butcher at third. The bigger problem is that he was looking for an everyday job and everyday money. Wigginton came with cost certainty.

Those who criticize Wigginton will point to more or less unspectacular range on defense and a checkered track record at the plate. However, in comparison with Lamb and Ensberg, Wigginton looks like the rock of Gilbralter. Wigginton isn't going to make anyone forget Mike Schmidt, but in a lineup that features so many question marks, it is great to have one player you can pencil into a fairly tight range.

                   2004    2005    2006    2007
Morgan Ensberg     .741    .945    .859    .724
Mike Lamb          .867    .703    .836    .819
Ty Wigginton       .757    .789    .828    .792

Say what you will about these numbers. Different teams will look at these numbers and see something they like from all three. Ensberg fans will hone in on 2005 and 2006 where his numbers were arguably better than anything the other two came up with. Lamb obviously produced 800+ OPS seasons in three out of the four seasons. Wigginton had a tighter distribution. When you consider that he will bat seventh, this is what the Astros chose to go with.

For most of the last four seasons, Brad Ausmus has been the seventh hitter in the Astros lineup. Of course, he has only been there because Adam Everett was also in the lineup. Replacing Everett and Ausmus with Wigginton and Towles can only help in the long run. So, he doesn't have to be a world beater, but another season of production along the lines of what he has done the last four seasons would be a huge improvement.

             2004    2005    2006    2007
Ausmus       .631    .682    .593    .642
Wigginton    .757    .789    .828    .792

Ausmus never came within 100 OPS points of Wigginton and the average differential is nearly 140 points. So, some of us might have preferred Mike Lamb in that spot, but Wigginton's consistency is hard to ignore. For a team with several high profile players, Wigginton's very reasonable salary ended up being the deciding factor.

                 OBP    AB    TB    BR    ATB    ASLG    AOPS
Ty Wigginton    .333   547   251    -1    250    .457    .790

Only three third basemen had adjusted OPSs under .700. Meanwhile, sixteen players had OPSs over .800. So, Wigginton fits in the lower average range. Still, unless you're the Yankees, you can't have an above average player at every position. The key in this case is that Wigginton isn't that far off.

Wigginton did not finish in the top eleven in the +/- rating or in the bottom five. Much like the rest of the defenders, Wigginton is in the average range. He might just might the epitome of average, but average is okay when you have great players at other positions. The key is that you know what you are going to get.