Key Stats: One factor is more important than any other for David Wright – the percent of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone. Wright swung at 30.1% of pitches outside the strike zone last year. An astonishing 8.2% higher than his next highest O-Swing% in any season. The domino effect that this number had on the rest of Wright’s season was drastic.
His swing and miss percentage was never higher. This led to a career high in cumulative strikeouts (161) and a career high in strikeout rate (27.4%).
The increase in strikeouts led to a decrease in his on base percentage. His BABIP was only 8 points off from his career BABIP, so the balls in play were the same as they always were. The walk rate fell of course because he was swinging at way more balls out of the zone than he used to. Compounding the high strikeout rate, normal BABIP, and low BB rate was an OBP that was a career low by 27 points.
The high strikeouts obviously resulted in a higher percentage of overall outs and a lower average. Wright hit a career low .283 last year.
Skeptics Say: What if this trend continues? At 24 and 25 years old, Wright was a top ten player according to Yahoo, but at 26 and 27 he has been ranked 70th and 23rd. His drop has been unconventional, and we can’t just assume a bounce back when he’s had strikeout issues for two consecutive seasons (in 2009 he actually had less issues than he does this year as far as swinging at bad pitches). As the lineup outlook will indicate, there’s reason to think Wright will continue to flail at pitches in Connecticut and New Jersey.
Peer Comparison: Seemingly everywhere you look, Evan Longoria is going ahead of Wright. And it’s hard to argue. Longoria is younger and has outplayed Wright in each of the last two seasons. That being said, Wright can certainly out do Longoria if his batting average and OPS return just a little. Here’s a look at the average season for each player in 2009-2010:
Wright – 88 R 28 HR 88 RBI 23 SB .294 AVG .847 OPS
Longoria – 98 R 28 HR 108 RBI 12 SB .288 AVG .884 OPS
The runs and RBI are based on factors that are outside of each player’s control to a large extent. Certainly, those factors have changed considerably for the worst in Longoria’s case. The losses of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena cannot be replaced by the additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Assuming the gap gets closed in runs and RBI, these two players are a very close comparison.
Lineup Outlook: In those brilliant 2007 and 2008 seasons, Wright was hardly the only Met that enjoyed success. Jose Reyes stole more bases than any player in baseball at that time and was a complete nuisance to a pitcher’s focus while Wright was at the plate. He was in the top ten in the National League in hits for both of those seasons and in the top five in the NL in runs scored. Carlos Beltran averaged 30 home runs and more than 100 runs and RBI during those two seasons. Even Carlos Delgado finished 9th in MVP voting in 2008 and was in the top five in home runs and RBI that season.
In two seasons since, none of those players have been able to stay healthy and none of them have performed at the level they did in 2007 or 2008 when they were on the field. Many people point to Citi Field when trying to explain Wright’s mysterious drop off in what for most baseball players is the prime of a career. Wright actually had a better OPS and average at home last year though. More than the new home, Wright’s biggest problem is that he’s trying to do so much. He wouldn’t be swinging at pitches a mile out of the zone if his new ballpark was impossible to take balls out of the yard. If anything, Wright would be trying to be more patient.
This season, Wright should see more support, and ultimately an increase in everything that was decreased in the Key Stats above. Ike Davis will be in year two and showed some great signs last year. There is less doubt regarding the health of Reyes who is moving toward his next contract. And Jason Bay has returned to action. Even if Beltran is moved or more simply can’t move, the Mets offense will have a hard time being worse than last year’s bunch.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #2 Third Baseman & #11 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #3 Third Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #14 Third Baseman; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #10 Overall; RotoChamp: #20 Overall; Fantasy Newsman: #2 Third Baseman
Projection: If Wright does make the adjustment and is patient, can pitchers adjust to him or will he be drawing more walks than ever this year?
89 R 27 HR 99 RBI 22 SB .287 AVG .870 OPS
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