Wendle Gave Rays Much More Than Was Expected
It was a small trade at the Winter Meetings in Orlando last December that saw the Rays acquire infielder Joey Wendle from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Tampa Bay eventually sent catcher Jonah Heim to the A’s to complete the deal.
At the time of the trade General Manager Erik Neander characterized Wendle as a grinder type of player with a high baseball I.Q. He also liked his defensive abilities.
“Part of what has drawn us to him is, over time, even prior to the DFA period, a really high quality defender.” Neander said. “This is a guy whose as about as reliable as they come and has really worked to put him in a position where his defense is today.”
Early in the 2018 season, it appeared that Wendle was a prototypical 1980’s type second baseman. Good defense, moderate speed, and a solid defender.
Through June 30th Wendle amassed 248 plate appearances and was tepid at the plate hitting just .260/.302/.344.
Some other numbers:
- Walk rate of 4.8-percent
- Strikeout rate of 24.6-percent
- Swinging Strike-percent – 10.9-percent
- Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) – .337
- Isolated power (ISO = slugging percentage – batting average) – .084
- Ground ball/Line Drive/Fly ball percentage – 52/18.7/29.2
- Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) – 78 (based on league average of 100)
- Weighted on Base Average (wOBA) – .282
Wendle picked it up after June 30th and finished the season batting .300/.354/.435 with a wRC+ of 116. How do the numbers after June 30th compare to before?
- Plate Appearances – .297
- Slash Line – .335/.397/.515
- Walk rate of 8.4-percent
- Strikeout rate of 11.8-percent
- Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) – .364
- Isolated power (ISO = slugging percentage – batting average) – .181
- Ground ball/Line Drive/Fly ball percentage – 41.5/24/34.2
- Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) – 148 (based on league average of 100)
- Weighted on Base Average (wOBA) – .364
Sometimes a player will have better results from one time period to the other because of a higher batting average on balls in play, increased walks, decreased strikeouts, or a combination of factors.
In the case of Joey Wendle, there seems to be more of an overall change in who he was at the plate from the season’s first two months to the final three. Not only did he reduce his propensity for striking out (24.6-percent to 11.8-percent) by more than half, he also nearly doubled his walk rate (4.8-percent to 8.4-percent).
Not only did he demonstrate a better eye at the plate, when he did swing and make contact he reduced his ground ball rate (52-percent to 41.5-percent) while increasing his line drive (18.7 to 24-percent) and fly ball (29.2 to 34.2-percent) rates.
The improved batted ball profile, away from ground balls and toward line drive and fly balls, led to a spike in power seen. His slugging percentage increased from .344 to .515 and his isolated power jumped from .084 to .181.
The wRC+ measures a players offensive output relative to park and league. A wRC+ of 100 is league average; therefore, a wRC+ of 78 up to June 30th was 22-percent below league average. His wRC+ after June 30 of 148 was 48-percent better than league average.
The question that will not be answered until 2019 is if Wendle can be counted on to repeat his 2018 production. If he can, the Rays have themselves a luxury in a sure handed second baseman who hits lefties and righties equally well. A player that can also man shortstop and third base to provide flexibility. As well as a player who can run the bases well as he chipped in 16 stolen bases.
If he is a one hit wonder, the Rays still have his services who provides them with positional flexibility and depth while having Christian Arroyo, Brandon Lowe, or Nick Solak (at some point) ready and waiting in the wings.