Opinion: What’s wrong with Wright? He’s seeing less strikes, swinging at more pitches

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).


david-wright-flies-out-1d


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.


manganavatar

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.

dw swing graph

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.



Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City.  His writing can be found at The Read Zone.  You can follow his Mets-related thoughts on Twitter: @brianpmangan




95 comments
Tim Warren
Tim Warren

He may be seeing fewer strikes, but he certainly isn't seeing less strikes.

Nick Biktjorn
Nick Biktjorn

I hate how people keep ripping on David Wright because of his results this year. He's clearly hurt. He's been hurt all year. Its been more than evident. The guy didn't open his mouth just like he didn't when he broke his back for a month.He has the same bulldog mentality we rave about in all of our young pitchers like Harvey and DeGrom. He got a big contract and wanted to live up to it. Simple as that. There is no decline in David Wright. Were not doomed to be stuck with a bad contract. The guy is still in the prime of his career. 


The first year at Citi field it was more than evident that the stadium size was daunting and it took away his power ally of right center so he went strictly for contact and he was a .300 hitter with nearly .400 OBP and gold glove defense. I think most teams would take that any day of the week.


His next year after the huge uproar over him not hitting home runs he sold out and swung with a massive uppercut to get people off his back and in doing so he hit his 25+ homers but he also had an average in the .280s. Still, a .280 hitter with 25+ homers, I will take every day of the week as will most. 


The next season he broke his back mid way so you can pretty much throw that out the window for reference. 


The following year yet again, .306 hitter, nearly .400 OBP and 20+ homers. Yet again I say, I will take every day of the week.


Last season, up until his injury he was on pace for one of if not the best year of his career next to of course 2007, but still close. through 100 games he had 18 homers, a .300+ average, 17 stolen bags and 58 RBIs in a terrible lineup no less. And who knows how long he was playing hurt as he is shown he is wiling to do. That season would result in .300 as usual, 25-30 homers, 25-30 stolen bags, 85-100 RBIs, and one of if not his best defensive season of his career.


I do not at all see the decline in his game, the waste of money or contract or the problem with him being a building block for the future. Yes he isnt Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. No he isnt going to be rewriting the record books of baseball history. But he is a great player and arguably the best Met of all time. And based on everything i just said, it doesn't appear to be ending soon. So give the guy a break. He is playing hurt and will most likely need rehab/surgery this offseason anyway. Stop hating on a guy based on one year and judging his career based on what he is doing today. He's hurt today. Last year we thought he was going to be the MVP of the NL.

Dead Wood I mean David Wright might have given 100% 10 years ago..  But now a hang nail and he takes a week off, he's a prima donna, 20 million, unbelievable, he needs a reality check (prefferably not with the Mets) 2 million+ per home run - come on... Please try to dump him!  He is not now & never has been a team player!

triviaace
triviaace

We have a candyass manager who says everyone is doing a wonderful job but has a slight problem and pitchers are terrific but have a breaking ball that is tumbly.  We need a manager who can make tough decisions call players out when they are falling short.  TC certainly doesn't fill that bill his boss SA makes comments like "he's doing an excellent job" but has never had a winning percentage in the NL.  Until the Wilpons make some tough decisions this team is headed for nowhere.  

birtelcom
birtelcom

When you take into account the low-scoring environment of Citi Field and the overall decline in hitting in the majors the last few years, Wright was having the single most productive career as a hitter just last season, 2013, when he went out with the hamstring injury in August.  And he was almost that good in 2012.   Theories about his beaning or about lack of lineup protection just aren't supported when you take into account his recent success.   Chances of David returning to form any time are quite high.        

MetsFan1962
MetsFan1962

Wright is in a season slump but I am glad it is happening now since we are not contending. I think David will come around and get back on track. Just a thought, When Matt Cain clocked David with a concussion a couple years ago, it may have left some affect on his hitting.

Alan J Tepper
Alan J Tepper

He's not seeing less strikes - he's seeing fewer strikes.  You should have learned this from the "Weird Al" Yankovic video.

Please hire a proofreader!

joe21
joe21

“This year has just been frustrating with some of the injuries and some of the bothersome things that have happened,”


I don't understand the second part of that statement, what is he suggesting are some of the "bothersome things" that have impacted his performance? The Mets have been a traveling circus for the last couple of years, but is that even close to a legitimate reason for his underperformance? I dunno, I always thought that a true professional focuses on what they can control and doesn't get caught up in external stuff, not to mention, it would be a stretch to use this an explanation for his poor play. Injuries? yes, other "bothersome things?" not so much

xplr
xplr

I don't understand. If he's seeing fewer strikes, then why is his walk rate down so much?. I believe Wright's production changed after he got beaned. He has been in decline since. 

matmil
matmil

Don't know why people worry about how much he makes. It's not your money it's Wilpons so don't worry about it. As far as a superstar is concerned I don't think he ever was one. He's a very good player and best 3rd baseman the Mets have ever had but not a superstar. Hopefully he can adjust to his declining power by becoming a smarter hitter. If he does that he could be a very big part of the future on this team. You can't replace him anyway and he is still one of the better 3rd baseman in baseball. Let's hope he figures it out. We can help by getting off his case.

dolemite
dolemite

Hit him second, he will be in an on base mentality, help him take more pitches. Mets are better team with Wright in teh 2 and Murp in the 3 at the moment.

I love David Wright but we have to acknowledge that he is Michael Young at this stage of his career (with a much better glove)

Jack Fitzpatrick
Jack Fitzpatrick

He doesn't "see" any strikes because he closes his eyes when he swings.

Bob Giacalone
Bob Giacalone

" Wright is unquestionably a superstar"...this is why I love this blog...overstatements that are certain and make no logical sense. It's the kind of quality writing you get with 8th grade students.

bromancer
bromancer

“They keep calling this a slump. A slump can last two weeks, a month even. This isn’t a slump. You know what this is.”

-Keith Hernandez


2014: $20 million

2015: $20 million

2016: $20 million

2017: $20 million

2018: $20 million

2019: $15 million

2020: $12 million


vandelay
vandelay

Pitch f/x numbers show Wright is actually seeing a bit more strikes this year than in years past. And his o zone swing % hasn't changed much from the last couple years where he was great. And that % is still better than league average. He's been pressing and chasing a bit lately but on the season as a whole it really hasn't been an issue

zoddie
zoddie

You're talking about the guy who played with a broken back, right?

zoddie
zoddie

@Pete Fiske  But Scott Rolen was a top 10 third baseman in major league baseball history even with his nasty habit of getting injured every year.  I'll take that.  Who wouldn't?


We made the mistake of giving money to the best hitter in franchise history and a guy who has never gotten in trouble once in his playing career?

Brian P. Mangan
Brian P. Mangan

@Alan J Tepper You are right, and that's my error (although I think it's one of the silliest grammatical rules).  Oops.

Hey so what'd you think of the article?

vandelay
vandelay

I think he just meant minor injuries. Like this neck thing that he doesn't think is a real injury and more just a nagging thing

Cheryl Ann
Cheryl Ann

@joe21 Maybe the reporter was referring to the shoulder injury and he mentioned other "bothersome things" referring to other minor injuries, the flu he had earlier, the neck injury he has now. Probably nothing more than that - the quote originally began with a discussion of playing through pain so I have to believe it was all injury related.

zoddie
zoddie

@xplr  Except 2 out of his best 4 years of his career (2012, 2013) occurred after he got beaned.  I don't doubt that it took him some time to get over it (and step closer to the plate), but he did.

Brian P. Mangan
Brian P. Mangan

@xplr He's seeing fewer strikes because he's willing to chase.  Pitchers aren't walking him because he's not hitting for power -- so whenever he's in a hitter's count, pitchers can come right after him.

slainte2
slainte2

@matmil 

your comment just reminded me of financial mess Wilpons are still in ... 700M loan against SNY due in June 2015 ... last year's 250M debt against team refinanced last year for 7 years, I think interest only, so principal due in 2020, all info per Megdal's blog, NY Capital ... if true, plan is to manage interest payments with cash flow, and worry about rolling over principal thru perpetual refinancing.  Plus bond payments, they are probably paying first 100M they make every year just in interest payments.  This is my understanding, if anyone else knows better, i would love to understand.  But if i am right ...  Is this team ever going to get out of hole?

Brian P. Mangan
Brian P. Mangan

@matmil Well he WAS a superstar-- that's why he's on that list with Chipper Jones, Adrian Beltre, and George Brett.  Unfortunately, since then...

And the reason we worry about the money is the Wilpon budget.  I wish they'd spend $140M+, but if they aren't, the money owed to Wright is noticeable.

slainte2
slainte2

@dolemite 

dolemite - you make a very very good point ... its not the spot in the lineup, its the mentality he takes up there.  He needs a 2 hitter mentality, hit the ball where its pitched, don't try to do too much, use the whole field.  The "meat of the order" mentality of going for long ball has him muscling up, trying to pull, starting swing early to be on top of the fastball (tho when it turns out to be a slider instead, its another K waiving at the ball diving out of strike zone low and away).

zoddie
zoddie

@Bob Giacalone  Defend your notion that he isn't a superstar.  I say he is.  He obviously isn't putting up superstar or even star numbers this year, but we're talking his career, not the past five months.

Brian P. Mangan
Brian P. Mangan

@Bob Giacalone Way to trim the sentence to make it appear like something that it's not.  Sorry buddy, you don't get to do that in the comments while I'm around. :)

Full sentence "Wright is unquestionably a superstar who was on a Hall of Fame track early in his career."

He IS a superstar-- when you're top 10 in jersey sales, you're a star.  The rest of the article addresses his striggles.

BerryBeltran
BerryBeltran

@Bob Giacalone agree he is not a superstar..but he is not a piece of crap worthless losing player that 90% of the fan base feels he is....THIS YEAR because he is struggling...guarantee no one was saying anything like the things said about him during his good years..in fact it was not being said at all

zoddie
zoddie

@bromancer  What was it in 2010 when he hit .254 and had a 2.0 WAR season?  And then followed that season up with two years in which he was one of the top ten players in baseball?

Brian P. Mangan
Brian P. Mangan

@vandelay He was seeing significantly more strikes from 2006-2009, and he was swinging at less more balls from 2006-2009.

The 2009 to 2010 transition is the big one for DW as you can see in the chart above.

What's interesting is that despite that, he managed to have a good 2012 and 2013, but still, when all is said and done, he'll have had equal parts success and struggle.

He's overall a .285/.362/.464 hitter (with 23 HR per 162 games) in the last five years.  I'd sign on the dotted line for that deal right now.

Alan J Tepper
Alan J Tepper

@Brian P. Mangan I liked the article.  I read Metsblog regularly and generally enjoy the articles.  However, there are so many grammatical and factual errors that I think Metsblog desperately needs a proofreader.

joe21
joe21

@Brian P. Mangan  I tell you what, you get props for at least taking responsibility for a slight oversight. I think he was referring to a pattern of sloppy writing on this blog and not directing it at you personally

Cheryl Ann
Cheryl Ann

Agreed but as I recall it took him awhile to come around after Cain incident. People forget that he was hit in head again at end of last year. Has been pitched in brutally this year and brushed back several times a series with no response. Believe there are many contributing factors to this season's downward spiral and this is one of them. It can't be bat speed or age or injury alone. His splits for RHP vs LHP are stark. He'll figure it out again.

joe21
joe21

@slainte2 @matmil  I honestly don't know the details, but one thing I feel pretty confident is that all of the accumulated debt is tied to the team/organization, so whatever the financial situation is, it would be inherited by a potential buyer. Cash flow is as cash flow does

matmil
matmil

I've seen Brooks Robinson and Brett and Nettles DW doesn't come close to them.

zoddie
zoddie

@Brian P. Mangan @matmil  Keep in mind that  "since then" is this year.  He put up superstar, HOF level numbers in both 2012 and 2013.

Bob Giacalone
Bob Giacalone

@zoddie @Bob Giacalone Zoddie, this isn't a court of law. I don't have to defend it and you don't either. My perception. Superstars do it year in, year out. He hasn't. That's about it.  We can disagree (that's the fun of it).


Bob Giacalone
Bob Giacalone

@Brian P. Mangan @Bob Giacalone Sorry for not having complete sentences...I will welcome your editorial prowess.  It's better than most of what is in this blog. You apparently take the time, this blog doesn't.

But frankly top 10 in Jersey sales does not make a superstar or a star. Small markets have wonderful folks that don't sell jerseys well. And haven't seen that in the stat in Hall of Fame discussions.  The rest is an article about his disappointments...still not HOF (superstar) quality, at least that's what the past 3 years or so would indicate.I think we just disagree.


Bob Giacalone
Bob Giacalone

@BerryBeltran NOT at all a piece of crap. Not a superstar. This year, he's less than he should or could be. But he never really lived up to his potential. Injuries and a lousy line-up haven't helped.

vandelay
vandelay

2010 was an outlier yes. Pitch fx data shows not much change from 2007-2008 (not available pre 07) and now. I think that data is more reliable than non pitch fx. Non pitch fx data shows huge swing in league averages in o-swing, zone % from early yrs to now

slainte2
slainte2

@joe21 @slainte2 @matmil 

I don't think so Joe ... i would imagine (like a house), value of the franchise would be established, say 1B, and the encumbrances (mortgage on house, debt against team) would be paid off by proceeds, with balance left over going to ownership.

zoddie
zoddie

@matmil  Why not? Brett was clearly better than him but please explain the other two.

Brian P. Mangan
Brian P. Mangan

@zoddie @Brian P. Mangan @matmil Zoddie I've liked your analysis up and down the thread here.

But remember, although 2012 and 2013 happened, that was after a terrible 2011 (771 OPS) and after a 2009 where he hit 10 home runs.

'12 and '13 were great but were those jus the peak years of a superstar fighting the trends?

zoddie
zoddie

@Brian P. Mangan @zoddie @matmil  I'll give in to the temptation to explain away his bad years.


2009 I think was due to CitiField's fences.  He hit tons of line drives that year, but few went over the fence.  Once they moved the fences in, he returned to Shea Stadium Wright.


2011 he played with a broken back.  A .771 OPS was a miracle that year.  I'm actually hoping this year is a repeat version of 2011 - Wright playing in pain and it affecting his play before he gets shut down early.


If 2012 and 2013 were 3 or 4 WAR years, maybe I could see Wright being a superstar that peaked early and settling into being a star.  But those years were every bit as good as his peak years in his early 20s.  I'll admit to not expecting 7.0 WAR year like we saw in 2012, but I'm still hoping that he can spend his early 30s in the 4-6 WAR range.

slainte2
slainte2

@Brian P. Mangan @zoddie @matmil 

in 2009, first year in Citi, DW HRs were way, way down ... but regardless, mid season, DW had OPS up in high .900s ... mashing the ball, using all parts of field.  I would take that guy in a heartbeat right now.

But grief over lack of HRs and Howard Johnson as hitting coach turned DW into Jeff Francouer by second half ... swinging out of his socks, swinging big and swinging early, trying to pull everything with an extra 10% of pop. i don't think he ever recovered, still trying to pull everything, still a sucker for slider low and away.  Moving him to 2nd spot is one thing, but i just hope he starts thinking like a 2-hitter... waiting half a beat longer, going with pitch, don't try to do too much, etc.