David Wright missed time with a sore shoulder earlier this season, and was pulled from Sunday’s game with a stiff neck.
“This year has just been frustrating with some of the injuries and some of the bothersome things that have happened,” Wright told reporters after Sunday’s game (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 26).
According to the team’s hitting coach, Lamar Johnson, Wright‘s sore shoulder may be affecting his swing, though Terry Collins later said Wright is clear and no longer receiving treatment for that injury.
Wright is on pace to hit .266 with 10 HR and 60 RBI, while walking just seven percent of the time, all of which would be among the worst of his 11-year career.
Brian P. Mangan: Wright’s struggles at the plate this season had flown mostly under-the-radar. However, in the last few days, local media has started to take notice, such as in Tuesday’s Bergen Record, Wall Street Journal and Newsday.
“No player is ever going to be at the top of his game consistently throughout a season, or over X number of seasons, and part of dealing with the adversity is how it’s handled,” Sandy Alderson said about Wright’s struggles last week on WOR radio. “David has handled it very well.”
Wright is unquestionably a superstar who was on a Hall of Fame track early in his career. Among all third basemen in the history of the game, David Wright is 10th in WAR accumulated by age 30, sandwiched between Wade Boggs and Scott Rolen. His 49.9 WAR by age 30 is more than Brooks Robinson (45.9), Chipper Jones (45.3) or Adrian Beltre (41.4) and within shouting distance of all time greats such as George Brett (54.9) and Miguel Cabrera (55.0).
Unfortunately, since 2009, Wright’s career has been a unpredictable up-and-down struggle. He has been worth a paltry 1.8 WAR this year, ranking 15th (between Brock Holt and Luis Valbuena) out of 26 qualified MLB third basemen. This is above-replacement level production, but the Mets need more from their superstar.
“I’ve made some mistakes this year, revamping some things with my swing that I probably shouldn’t mess with,” Wright recently told John Harper (Daily News, Aug. 7). “Especially after the All-Star break, I started trying to change things when I didn’t get the results I wanted. Pretty soon you’re trying something new every at-bat and thinking about all the wrong things.”
It’s my personal belief, that Wright has suffered from trying to do too much – seeing less strikes, swinging at more pitches, and simply not playing to his own strengths anymore…
The more you swing and miss, the more you tend to strike out, according to the SwStk% stat on FanGraphs.com. However, Wright had been bucking that trend. In fact, despite his SwStk% remaining essentially the same for his entire career, his strikeout rate fluctuated enormously from around 16-17 percent his first few years to as high as 24 percent in 2010 (that’s a difference of roughly 50 strikeouts per year). In 2012, the trend reversed and Wright went back to striking out only around 17-18% of the time.
Similarly, during the first five years of his career, Wright was swinging and missing at 21 percent of pitches outside the zone, according to FanGraphs’s O-Swing%. In 2010, that number rose to 30 percent, and has remained at around 25 percent or higher every season thereafter.
This season, his O-Swing% is 27.4 percent. Similarly, his Zone%, which the percentage of pitches he sees that are strikes, decreased quickly from the mid 50′s down to the low-to-mid 40′s.
Pablo Sandoval, Adam Jones and Hunter Pence are all successful with a high O-Swing%. However, that was never Wright’s style when successful earlier in his career.
The free-swingers, like Sandoval and Pence, who experience success tend to either a) make contact outside the zone more often than Wright, or b) they hit the ball with more authority than Wright, such as Jose Abreu and Carlos Gomez.
Mets fans are lucky that David Wright is such a generational talent, but he isn’t doing himself or his team any favors swinging at pitches out of the zone almost 30% of the time.
This is just one theory of many (along with his injuries, the uppercut in his swing, etc.), but I tend to agree with Sandy Alderson when he says that Wright’s struggles are a “collective thing.” Wright may just be trying to do too much by himself on a team with too little talent. Hopefully, whatever the problem is, the organization can identify it soon, because this team’s plans of contention in 2015 depend on Wright’s return to being Wright.