Ty Wigginton was once the centerpiece of the trade that sent Kris Benson from Pittsburgh Pirates to the New York Mets. The Pirates cut ties with Wigginton only a season and a half later, leaving Wigginton to take a non-roster invite with Tampa Bay. Wigginton would spend a season and a half in St. Petersburg before again packing his bags, this time heading to Houston for reliever Dan Wheeler. Wigginton’s rate stats picked up in the final 50 games of 2007, hitting .284/.342/.462, little did we know that was a sign of things to come.
Wigginton would continue slaughtering National League pitching in 2008, hitting .285/.350/.526 with 23 homeruns and a rather modest 58 runs batted in. Is Wigginton’s .876 legitimate, or was some luck to credit for his breakout? Well, as it turns out, a bit of both. Wigginton’s .296 batting average on balls in play is hardly outrageous, and even with consideration given to Wigginton’s 16.3 line drive percentage, a recent career low. Wigginton’s 23 homeruns seem fine as well; after all, he hit 22 in 2007 and 24 in 2006. Herein sits the snake in the bushes: Wigginton recorded only 386 at-bats in 2008, more than 160 less than he did in 2007, and 58 less than in 2006.
A small fracture in Wigginton’s left thumb cost him playing time from mid-April through early May. That means less balls in play, and since only 38.8% of Wigginton’s balls in play were of the “fly” variety, and 11.3% of those did not leave the infield, Wigginton’s 18.5% HR/FB is quite a bit more than you should expect heading forward, especially with Wigginton’s career total being 13.5%. Odds are, Wigginton will be closer to his career percentage than 2008.
Marcels anticipates some regression from the 31-year-old, with a projected line of .273/.333/.473 and 20 homeruns. That’s not too bad, with Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Zimmerman, and Mike Lowell falling behind in projected OPS from the hot corner. Perhaps the only question remaining is whether Wigginton will remain in Houston, or jack 20 homeruns elsewhere come springtime.
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