Will Leitch and Derrick Goold discussed the Ty Wigginton hysteria on Wednesday's Sports on Earth podcast (around the 16 minute mark), and Will seemed encouraged that the Cards system is in such a strong position that their use of the 25th roster spot becomes a major point of public outcry.
Leitch's premise that 5 years ago the Cardinals had 6 Ty Wiggintons is a bit of a stretch*, and surely there has long been public angst over management's irrational loyalty to bad players (remember Chris Duncan?), but Leitch's comments did get me thinking...how does Wigginton's 2013 form stack up to the worst Cardinals of the last decade?
Going back 10 years - excluding pitchers and backup catchers (for obvious reasons) - there are 4 Cardinals with OPS+ <30 with a minimum of 56 PA: 2005 Roger Cedeno, 2008 Nick Stavinoha, 2011 Corey Patterson, and 2013 Ty Wigginton. Here are the slash lines and strikeout rates:
2005 RC -1 OPS+ .158/.197/.175 61 PA 9.8 SO%
2008 NS 14 OPS+ .193/.217/.211 61 PA 18.0 SO%
2011 CP 17 OPS+ .157/.189/.235 56 PA 21.4 SO%
2013 TW 22 OPS+ .158/.238/.193 63 PA 30.2 SO%
Clearly Wigginton is in historic company. If it weren't for an IBB and an HBP, his OBP would be .213 and his OPS+ would be in the Patterson/Stavinoha territory. Ridiculous strikeout rate aside (more on that below), it does appear that Wigginton still has a bit further to fall before reaches Cedeno levels of sucktitude.
About those strikeouts...Wigginton is striking out at a higher rate than Tyler Greene (28.8%) in 2012. You have to go back to 2001 with LanKford (33.4%) and McGwire (32.4%) to find a non-pitcher/backup-catcher with at least 60 PA and a higher strikeout rate than Ty Wigginton in 2013. McGwire and LanKford had respective ISOs of .304 and .261, compared to Wigginton's .035 in 2013. Wigginton is all risk, no reward.
brief aside: in 2004 some guy named Colin Porter struck out 13 times in 35 plate appearances (37.1%!) while hitting .314/.314/.429 before being optioned to Memphis in late May. The Cardinals went 82-36 the rest of the way and Porter never made it back to the Show. Definitely one of the most obscure players on a great team in Cardinals history.
I know what you're thinking: "What about Khalil Greene and Pedro Feliz and Adam Kennedy? They sucked and they played a lot more than Ty Wigginton!" Here are the worst offensive seasons of the last 10 years from Cardinals (non-pitchers or backup catchers) who got at least 100 PA: 2010 Pedro Feliz, 2005 Scott Seabol, 2007 Adam Kennedy, 2006 Yadier Molina, 2010 Brendan Ryan, 2009 Tyler Greene, and 2009 Khalil Greene
2010 PF 32 OPS+ .208/.232/.250 125 PA 8.0 SO%
2005 SS 49 OPS+ .219/.272/.295 114 PA 20.2 SO%
2007 AK 50 OPS+ .219/.282/.290 306 PA 10.8 SO%
2006 YM 53 OPS+ .216/.274/.321 461 PA 8.9 SO%
2010 BR 57 OPS+ .223/.279/.294 486 PA 12.4 SO%
2009 TG 58 OPS+ .222/.270/.324 116 PA 27.6 SO%
2009 KG 64 OPS+ .200/.272/.347 193 PA 18.1 SO%
Obviously Molina and Ryan's gold glove caliber defense exempts them from this discussion. It's highly unlikely Wigginton is around long enough to challenge Feliz at the 100 PA threshold, but I suppose it's possible. 2007 Adam Kennedy seems a lock to retain the "Worst Cardinals hitter of the last 10 years with at least 300 PA" title for the foreseeable future.
*Regarding Leitch's 5 years ago comment, here's the 6 worst (non-pitcher, non-backup catcher) hitters (measured by OPS+) with at least 60 PA on the 2009 Cardinals: Rick Ankiel, Brian Barden, Joe Thurston, Khalil Greene, Nick Stavinoha, and Tyler Greene
2009 RA 77 OPS+ .231/.285/.387 404 PA 372 AB 99 SO 24.5 SO%
2009 BB 75 OPS+ .233/.286/.379 114 PA 103 AB 21 SO 18.4 SO%
2009 JT 73 OPS+ .225/.316/.330 307 PA 267 AB 56 SO 18.2 SO%
2009 KG 64 OPS+ .200/.272/.347 193 PA 170 AB 35 SO 18.1 SO%
2009 NS 63 OPS+ .230/.242/.379 91 PA 87 AB 15 SO 16.5 SO%
2009 TG 58 OPS+ .222/.270/.324 116 PA 108 AB 32 SO 27.6 SO%
and this doesn't even include Chris Duncan who was run out of town midseason...so while the Cardinals of 5 years ago didn't have anyone close to sucking as bad as Ty Wigginton, they certainly had half a dozen bad hitters seeing a lot more playing time than Wigginton is getting in 2013. Leitch's point is valid: The Cardinals system has improved to the point where bad players stick out to the point where even the casual fans take notice.