It’s clear from reading through the comments sections of the prominent Twins blogs that Joe Crede’s defense at third base is highlight of his game. No doubt, at the pinnacle of Crede’s career he was an excellent fielding third baseman. The question is whether the Twins can expect an elite glove at the hot corner from Joe Crede during the 2009 season.
Fielding can be a hard skill to measure but there are a few good stats out there which can help peel away some of the mystery. One of them which is normally useful when you have a large enough sample size is Range Factor. The way we find a player’s range factor is simple enough, it’s outs plus assists over innings multiplied by nine (RF9). We then get an estimate about how many fielding plays a player makes every game, on average.
Below is Joe Crede’s RF9 compared to the league average for 3rd baseman:
As we can see, in the 7th and 8th year of Crede’s career he was quite a bit better than the league average. However, last year Crede was just about average. Range Factor has it’s flaws and some people won’t use it at all, but the above results are nicely replicated by a look at Crede’s Zone Rating (specifically, his RZR from THT). The Hardball Times doesn’t have lifetime data but it does have RZR numbers from the last five years. Here is Crede’s RZR over the last five years with a polynomial trendline added:
As we can see, almost the same curve exists in Crede’s RZR numbers and RF9 numbers. In fact, Crede’s RZR last year is very close to the AL median for 3rd baseman. Last year, Crede was basically an average fielder. He also made 20 errors in 2008 (12 fielding and eight throwing) which is a more visible but less meaningful stat.
If Twins fans are expecting an elite glove from Joe Crede, they are setting themselves up to be disappointed. While it’s true Crede was battling back problems last year and could put together a good comeback season this year, there’s no reason to believe this based on his numbers. At best, Crede could be an average to slightly above average glove at third base. Considering his hitting is already below average, it’s hard to see what kind of value Crede adds to the Twins.