In August 2008, while with the Astros, Ty Wigginton had one of the best months of his major-league career, hitting .379 with 12 home runs and 26 RBI. The home run total tied the franchise record for August established by Jeff Bagwell in 2000.
Asked by writer Richard Justice, then of the Houston Chronicle, about his statistics that month, Wigginton replied, “I’m just a blue-collar baseball player.”
Wigginton, a free agent, signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals Dec. 14, 2012. St. Louis will be the eighth big-league team for Wigginton, 35. He batted .235 with 11 home runs for the Phillies in 2012. The Cardinals hope he can be an effective right-handed pinch-hitter and fill-in at first base, third base and left field.
Research shows what the Cardinals are getting is precisely how Wigginton described himself. He’s a journeyman utility player. Sometimes he can hit tough pitching, but he can give up runs with his subpar fielding and he isn’t the definition of a clutch hitter. He enters his 12th big-league season looking to play in the postseason for the first time.
Five key facts to know about Cardinals bench player, Ty Wigginton:
1. GOOD HITTER VS. GOOD PITCHING
Here are Wigginton’s career batting averages against some of the National League’s premier starting pitchers:
_ vs. Josh Beckett, Dodgers: .286 (10-for-35), four homers, three doubles. Wigginton has hit more homers against Beckett and retired ace Randy Johnson than he has against any others.
_ vs. Matt Cain, Giants: .333 (4-for-12), one homer.
_ vs. Roy Halladay, Phillies: .318 (7-for-22), one homer.
_ vs. Cole Hamels, Phillies: .556 (5-for-9).
_ vs. Kyle Lohse, free agent (ex-Cardinal): .444 (8-for-18).
_ vs. Johan Santana, Mets: .467 (7-for-15), two doubles.
_ vs. James Shields, Royals: .400 (6-for-15).
In 2012, Wigginton’s homers came against pitchers such as the Pirates’ Erik Bedard, the Marlins’ Mark Buehrle (twice), the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano, the Mets’ Dillon Gee and the Cubs’ Paul Maholm. (Buehrle now is with the Blue Jays; Maholm is with the Braves.)
“He’s got a quick bat,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
2. DR. STRANGEGLOVE
Wigginton has played six positions _ third base, first base, second base, left field, right field and shortstop _ in his major-league career. “Wherever you want me to go on the field, I’m more than willing to figure it out and learn how to play it,” Wigginton said to the Philadelphia Inquirer in March 2012.
But that doesn’t mean he fields well.
In 2012, Wigginton made eight errors in only 48 chances (.833 fielding percentage) at third base, the position he’s played the most in the big leagues. His career fielding percentage of .947 at third base ranks just 16th among active players at that position. The errors alone don’t account for the balls Wigginton misplayed at third base and in left field with the Phillies in 2012.
3. HOT AND COLD
Wigginton is streaky. What the Cardinals must hope is that those streaks average out to meaningful overall production. Wigginton had a 13-game hitting streak from April 12-28 in 2012. He also hit .128 (5-for-39) for July.
In an analysis of the Phillies’ 2012 season, using the Wins Above Replacement metric, the Philadelphia Inquirer concluded that Wigginton “was the 10th worst Phillies player in the last 50 years. That’s even after hitting .322 in April.”
4. NO CINCH IN CLUTCH
Wigginton has a career batting average of .232 with runners in scoring position. With two outs and runners in scoring position, he has hit .223.
In 2012, Wigginton couldn’t even produce those numbers in the clutch. He hit .192 (15-for-78) with runners in scoring position and .167 (7-for-42) with two outs and runners in scoring position.
5. PINCH-HIT PROBLEMS
The Cardinals had only one pinch-hit home run (from Lance Berkman) in 2012. Cardinals pinch-hitters batted .190 (46-for-242) for the season. The area needed addressing, but Wigginton is a curious choice as a solution.
Wigginton batted .152 (5-for-33) as a pinch-hitter for the 2012 Phillies. In his career, Wigginton has a .233 batting average and three homers as a pinch-hitter.
If Wigginton is to reward the Cardinals for giving him a two-year contract, he’ll need to produce better pinch-hitting and clutch-hitting numbers than his track record shows.
Previously: George Crowe: mentor to Curt Flood