David Wright’s much maligned 2009 campaign was unlike anything the baseball world had seen before. As David Golebiewski of Fangraphs.com surmised, “From 2005-2008, Wright was a metronome at the plate. But his ’09 season was just bizarre. His punch out rate increased considerably, his power output took a dive, and his BABIP was obscenely, unsustainably high.” Furthermore, the concussion that Wright sustained as a result of an up-and-in fastball that got away from Matt Cain undoubtedly had a negative impact on Wright’s hitting ability. Due to this and increased pressure placed upon him by an offensively challenged Mets club in 2010, Wright’s approach at the plate begot even further wackiness.
Mets fans were universally happy to see Wright’s home run power return, as he smashed 29 long balls in 2010, with fairly even home/road splits (.288/.383./.496 home vs. .278/.326/.508 road), which should dispel notions of CitiField being a black hole for power hitters. This return to power, however, came at rather hefty cost. Wright set a career worst in strikeouts (161), had his walk rate dip to 10.3% (which has been in steady decline since a career high of 13.2% in 2007), and his average dipped below .300, to .283, for the first time since his 2004 rookie season, a product of his BABIP dropping by nearly .060 points. As a result, Wright’s wOBA, one of the best measure of a player’s offensive value, was actually worse in 2010 than it was in 2009, in spite of what conventional baseball wisdom may have you believe.
What’s causing Wright to deviate even further from the consistent offensive presence he was from 2005 to 2008? Simply put, Wright has lost has plate discipline. It’s possible Jeff Francoeur’s time with the Mets rubbed off on Wright, because Wright’s swinging like he never has before. His overall swing percentage was 47.6%, which if we ignore Wright’s rookie season, was by far the highest of his career. Wright’s swing percentage at pitches inside the strike zone was fairly close to his career average, but his swing percentage at pitches outside of the strike zone was nearly 9% higher than his career average, a massive increase. This in turn translated to Wright contacting on only 76.6% of pitches he swung at, a career low.
I suspect that Wright was under tremendous pressure to slug in 2010 to prove to himself, fans, and management that he hadn’t lost his power stroke. To do so, Wright swung from his heels throughout the season, sacrificing average for power. As anyone who watched the Mets over the last two years can attest, Wright’s batting stance and the approach he takes at the plate have changed dramatically. As a Mets fan, this has me concerned. Is it possible that David Wright’s numbers will drift further, putting him closer to Mark Reynolds? Possibly, but it’s unlikely; Wright possesses great potential as a hitter and is in the midst of his prime baseball years age-wise. It’s fair to assume, though, that the David Wright Mets fans have grown used to may never return to his MVP-like form.
All stats courtesy of Fangraphs.com