Sunday, July 25, 2004

Crede looking for another big second half

Not only did Joe Crede deliver in last night’s 7-6 win against the Tigers, he looked good doing it.

In the seventh inning with the bases laded with no outs, Crede found himself looking at a 0-2 count against Detroit starter Jason Johnson. After battling back to a 3-2 count, Crede punched the ball over the infield and down the line in right field for a double, scoring two runs to cut the White Sox deficit to 6-4.

Later in the ninth inning, after the Sox had tied the game at 6-all, Crede stood in against Tigers closer Ugueth Urbina and was quickly down in the count 0-2. Crede again fought back to a 3-2 count before drilling a game-winning home run to left field.

It was the second at-bat against Urbina that was more impressive.

Not only is Urbina a tougher pitcher in that situation than a tiring Johnson was in the seventh, but Crede also had to lay off pitches that were very, very close to the strike zone. He did lay off, they were called balls and he worked the count back in his favor. Despite Uribina’s more deceptive delivery.

Is this a sign that Joe “Fear” Crede has turned the corner?

Well, Joe did put up a big second half last year. Here are last year’s numbers…

Pre All-Star Break       .225/.277/.348
Post All-Star Break     .308/.349/.543

That came after coming up after the All-Star Break in 2002 and posting a line of .285/.311/515.

Crede hit .329/.418/.600 in June before slumping to .224/.268/.318 this month. His season totals as of today are .243/.298/.428. Joe could improve the two latter batting lines over the next week.

It’s now fashionable to look at a player’s walk rate to see if he’s finally arrived as a hitter. But Crede has never drawn many walks, averaging a free pass only once every 18 plate appearances. (To give you an idea how few that is, Frank Thomas in his career has walked every 5.84 PAs.)

In good and bad times with the bat, Crede still draws walks at about the same rate.

That isn’t a problem, though, as long as Crede can keep in mind the most fundamental element of hitting: getting your pitch to hit.

If Joe can paste the baseball to the tune of a +.500 slugging percentage, he can be a very valuable player for the Sox, especially considering his stellar glovework at the hot corner. He won’t have the benefit of walks to boost his on-base percentage, but a .500 slugging average combined with a modest .300-.320 on-base percentage can push his overall OPS to over .800, making him better-than-league-average hitter.

So long as his batting eye keeps him from swinging at junk.

Watching Crede sit back and wait for his pitch, not once, but twice, was an encouraging sign that hopefully bodes well for the Sox and their third baseman.

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