Last year, about this time, we took a look at Mike Lamb's 2008 season - and concluded that he wasn't doing much more than Tony Batista had been doing in 2006. The Twins cut Batista loose after 50 games in 2006, and dropped Lamb after 81 last season.
So, while no one is suggesting that he be dropped, it's only fair to examine Joe Crede, as he is Minnesota's 2009 solution at third base. Crede has had 192 plate appearances this year, just three fewer than Batista got in 2006 (and five more than Lamb had at the time of last year's article), so the timing's about right.
Here's the tale of the tape*:
|BATISTA ('06)||LAMB ('08 thru 6/3)||CREDE ('09)|
|OPS, last 20 games||.685||.707||.770|
*Statistic sources: UZR/150 from Fangraphs.com, BABIP/LD% from The Hardball Times, all others from Baseball-Reference.com
^Lamb's fielding number only available for entire 2008 season
A few things jump out at me from this comparison, so let's discuss:
- Crede is so much better on defense than either Lamb or Batista, there's just no comparison. Both Batista and Lamb were absolute liabilities at third base. Meanwhile, if you go by Ultimate Zone Rating (the number above is per 150 defensive games), Crede has been the best defensive third baseman in baseball. Strictly in the field, Crede's been worth 15 runs more than Batista in 2006, and likely about the same number more than Lamb last season at this point.
Crede's power numbers dwarf his predecessors, though his on-base numbers are just as bad. This is a function of his home run numbers, and nothing else. He has about the same number of extra base hits as both Batista and Lamb; it's just that his few have flown over the wall.
- Crede hits an extraordinary number of fly balls (almost half the time), and has done so for several years. He hits the fewest ground balls on the team (35.6%), and so few line drives that even Delmon Young hits more. Consequently, his batting average, even when he hits the ball (BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, above) is horrible, since most of the time the ball either ends up in the stands or in an outfielder's glove. Crede's 10 home runs are many more than either Lamb or Batista, but for example, he's hit fewer doubles and triples than either one.
Ultimately, the conclusion I draw from the numbers is that Crede's contribution this year has been about 15-20 runs over what the Twins got from either Batista in 2006 or Lamb in 2008. That's about equal to two wins. (Not to mention that if Crede wasn't playing, Brian Buscher might be, and that would have translated into probably 2-3 fewer wins, as well.)
Are you frustrated with Crede? That .228 batting average could vex the calmest among us. But take heart - he's much better than the guys who've manned third base in the past.