Joe Crede is finally hitting the way Baseball America thought he would. Remember, when Crede was a 24-year-old third baseman in Triple-A Charlotte, he batted .312/.359/.571 with 24 home runs in just 359 at-bats. His minor league career was filled with honors (twice the MVP of his league and twice the White Sox’s minor league player of the year) and an All-Star major league career seemed inevitable.
Before this year, it hadn’t quite happened. Over the last three full years of play, he’s batted .261, .239 and .252 with a high of 22 home runs. His OPS (On-Base plus Slugging) was below the league average each year, as was his batting WPA . Despite his fine glove and World Series heroics, Crede was considered a disappointment by most White Sox fans.
Something has clicked for Joe this year. He’s batting .298/.333/.545 and he’s already set a career high with 25 home runs. He’s creating 6.8 runs a game and his batting WPA is 1.53, making him three wins better than average.
As you can see on the following graph of his Runs Created per Game, he’s been consistently fine this year, suggesting he truly has moved up to another level of production.
How has he done it? He’s striking out less and hitting more fly balls, without losing any power. Crede has always managed to put the bat on the ball, but this year he’s been particularly adept at it:
When a player makes better contact, you might expect him to give up something in power, but 13% of Crede’s outfield fly balls have been home runs, the same as last year. His home run totals are up because he’s hitting more outfield flies:
On the other hand, the White Sox’s Jermaine Dye is clearly having a career year. He’s creating 9.7 runs a game and his WPA is 4.25. But his production is driven by a big jump in his BABIP (from .286 last year to .353 this year) and flyball production (17% home runs last year to 25% this year). No one should expect him to maintain that pace.
Joe Crede’s story appears to be different. Of course, he could also go back to his old self the rest of this year and next year, but the stats indicate something more permanent. At the age of 28, Joe Crede is finally meeting the expectations folks had for him.
References & Resources
All graphs are courtesy of Fangraphs, the best site for current baseball stats anywhere on the Web. ChiSox Daily has a different opinion of Crede’s chance for long-term improvement.