Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hey, Joe, where you going with that bat in your hand?

It's been commented on a lot, but I don't think we've quite realized the depth in the change in Joe Crede since he came off the DL last season after he broke his finger. His slam the other night was a definite hint he's now an impact player... but how much of one?

Crede's played in 48 regular season games since then, just shy of one third of a season. Using the incredible Baseball Musings day-by-day database, we can see:
  • He's hit .335 since that day. (56-for-167) with an on-base average of .379.
  • He's hit a dozen homers and 11 doubles and is slugging .617.
  • That gives him an OPS of 996.
  • He's walked 11 times, but struck out only 14 times. Effectively he's cut his strikeouts in half.
So, how good is that? Over the same window (9/10/2005 to today):
  • Eric Chavez is at .276/.354/.568. Crede has out-hit Chavez.
  • A-Rod is at .280/.398/.538. Crede has actually out-hit A-Rod.
Actually, he's pretty much out-hit everybody. I won't suggest that this will continue, but the small sample size is starting to get big enough to discount, and anyone who has seen him play knows there is a huge change in his approach and his confidence. It's pretty obvious Crede stopped trying to yank low and away curveballs. I don't know how many other things Crede changed during his down-time. Whatever he changed, he's the best third baseman in the league right now, including that self-important egotistical transplant we all know about.

So what does this mean for Josh Fields, last night's MiLB "star of the day" for the suddenly invicible 23-6 Charlotte Knights? Fields is hitting .307/.374/.511, which is pretty damned good. He is nowhere near as polished a defender as Crede and probably never will be. He may be benefitting from the close fences in Charlotte. But, regardless, you can't say he isn't adjusting to AAA, and a decision will have to be made soon because he's showing signs of being "ready".

It means, in the short term, the serious luxury here allows the White Sox to think over their relationship with Scott Boras. Crede's a home-grown player, a key cog in a high profile championship team, who seems to show signs of blossoming into the star we all hoped he would be.

I expect Fields will be harvested for middle relief if Crede is still hitting .3-something at the All-Star break.

It's been commented that the White Sox have an awful record when playing three or more substitutes. The Cheat first brought this to my attention back on May 2nd. That begs the question of "why"? Here are some observations:
  • The White Sox are 0-5 when Ozuna starts a game
  • The White Sox are 2-4 when Widger starts
  • They are 8-2 when Mackowiak starts in center field, 1-3 when he starts in right
What I think this shows is that Widger to a certain extent and Ozuna to a much larger extent have value off the bench, but perhaps together they sabotage the offense and defense to the point where the team is compromised.

Chris Widger is probably the one player who is "on notice" in my book. He's hitting a weak .211, isn't a developmental prospect, and has seen pitchers roll up a 7.66 ERA in his 47 innings. I know, catcher ERA is not deeply meaningful, or so say all the studies... but if Pierzynski were to get hurt, the White Sox would probably have to reach into Charlotte and get Chris Stewart as the interim regular.

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