2009 O’s Retrospective: Ty Wigginton

In part twenty-five of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at Ty Wigginton… THE FIGHTIN’ CANNONEER*!

Wigginton was signed to a two year, $6 M contract this past offseason to be a back-up at multiple infield positions and add some right-handed pop to the line-up. I projected Wiggy to spend most of his time at first and DH (and playing a little at second and third – both poorly) while batting .271/.334/.469.

* Apparently, Ty deliverd his son – named Cannon – when his wife unexpectedly went into labor at their home. So “Cannoneer” seemed a better nick-name than “Guy With A Really Big Head.”

Ty started out the year in a horrible slump, batting just .205/.244/.256 in April. He picked it up a little thereafter, but still finished that year with a disappointing .273/.314/.400 line and only 11 home runs.  His walk rate plummeted to a career low 5.3% (though his career average of 7.2% is no great shakes either), and though he cut down on his strike-outs quite a bit – to just 13.9% (compared to 18.9% career) he wasn’t able to parlay that into much success overall. His power output was way down, largely due to a 7.9% HR/FB rate, compared to 18.5% last year and 12.7% for his career. The Hardball Times PrOPS line for him - which adjusts for batted-ball types, strike-outs, walks, and home runs – was a better but still not great .276/.314/.423.

I think the main cause of Wiggy’s issues is his trouble with left-handed pitchers. In his career, Ty has a .282/.356/.484 line against them (compared to .266/.317/.440 versus righties), but in ’09 he actually had a reverse platoon-split. He hit .285/.313/.437 against right-handers – right in line with his career marks – but only .252/.317/.333 against southpaws, with just 2 HR in 147 at bats. Maybe it had something to do with a loss of aggressiveness, as Ty swung at 48.7% of pitches in the strike-zone, which is more than the average hitter did but less than usual for Wiggy (he’d been above 50% every year, and was at 55.4% last year). He chased less pitches out of the zone than he had in the last few years, but given that he walked less anyway maybe he should go back to hacking more. Whatever the reason, I definitely don’t expect that to happen again next year.

Given that Wigginton was brought in to hit and didn’t do so, it would be a fair bet to say he wouldn’t be very valuable. He was OK defensively at first-base (-1.4 UZR/150 games), but a butcher at second (-16.8 UZR/150 though in just 8 games) and third (-20.9 UZR/150 in 39 games). Overall, that made Wiggy a below replacement level player at -0.3 WAR. Despite my accolades for the contract, Ty will need to have a pretty good 2010 to have made even the low salary worthwhile.

Photo by Rob Tringali.