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Wigginton a Pleasant Surprise for O’s

The Orioles have plenty of problems, but right now missing Brian Roberts isn’t one of them. While his absence has created a void atop the order, his offensive production has been replaced, and then some. Ty Wigginton has done nothing but hit since taking over as the full-time second baseman. His defense doesn’t stack up to Roberts’, but his offense has more than bridged the gap. His .445 wOBA currently ranks sixth in the AL.

As Matt noted almost two weeks ago, Wigginton’s power surge is largely based on a high HR/FB ratio. When he wrote the post, on April 26, Wigginton’s rate was 35.3 percent. That hasn’t changed much in the ensuing 10 games, and it currently sits at 34.5 percent. That rate simply is not sustainable for a full season. Wigginton’s career HR/FB ratio is 13.3 percent, though he did reach 18.5 percent in 2008 with the Astros. At that rate, he’d currently have five home runs.

While the HR/FB ratio certainly stands out, two of Wigginton’s stats seem downright absurd when juxtaposed. I’m not quite sure how this happens, but:

GB%: 50%
ISO: .391

Grounders cannot leave the park, and so can only go for doubles and triples. Wigginton, unsurprisingly, has no triples this season. He has hit one double on a grounder, for an ISO of .027. On his eight line drives he has an ISO of just .125. When he hits the ball well into the air, then, he absolutely crushes it. His 10 homers and two doubles on fly balls adds up to a 1.143 ISO. That comes mostly when he pulls the ball. His HR/FB ratio on balls hit to left: 90.9 percent.

This isn’t the first time that Wigginton has gone on a tear for about 100 PA. In August 2008 he produced similar numbers. From the 2nd through the 31st he hit .390/.406/.830 in 106 PA, which is actually a bit better than his 102 PA sample from this season. For the rest of the season, in 323 PA, he hit .248/.333/.399. We very well could see Wigginton drop back to that level soon. That line, after all, isn’t too far off his career line of .271/.330/.459.

That, however, is not to downplay his torrid start to the 2010 season. If not for his production, where would the Orioles be? They’re 7-18 since Roberts’s last game. The difference between Wigginton and Roberts’s other most likely replacement, Julio Lugo, is more than 1 WAR right now. One win might not seem like a huge swing, but at this point the Orioles need everything they can get.