February 01, 2010
We all have questions about the 2010 season and Alex Remington luckily has some answers. The Stew's resident stats guru will address three questions per week as Opening Day approaches.
The Situation: David Wright(notes), y'all! Of all the woes endured by the Mets, who lost 92 games during their inaugural year in Citi Field, perhaps nothing was worse than seeing the face of the franchise slip from 33 home runs in 2008 to 10 in 2009. Though Wright regularly complained about the size of the new ballpark, he didn't completely forget how to hit — he hit .307, with an OPS+ of 123 — but his homers just vanished. If he can't bounce back in 2010, it won't matter what kind of output the Mets get from $60 million man Jason Bay(notes).
The Question: Can David Wright recover from his power slump in 2009?
The Analysis: Many people feel that Wright's power outage is the fault of the new park and they may be right. Greg Rybarczyk of the home run website Hit Tracker Online believes that Citi Field robbed Wright of nine home runs last year. David Golebiewski of FanGraphs also notes that the decline in homers wasn't the only aberration during Wright's season. Wright struck out a lot more than in years past, while maintaining a much higher BABIP — which means that his batting average is likely to come down next year, if he keeps striking out at the same rate.
Wright's drop in performance came almost entirely against right-handed pitchers. David Wright destroys lefties and that didn't change in 2009. His career OPS against lefties is 1.037 and he OPSed 1.142 in 133 plate appearances against southpaws. His career OPS against righties is .864, however, and last year he managed just a .754 OPS, including a 99-point drop in slugging. Fangraphs' Dave Allen noted that his contact rate went down against righties last year as well, which likely was a reason for the strikeout spike. That problem could be mechanical, or it could be a fluke.
Wright also ended the season poorly. One source of blame was a late-season concussion caused after being hit in the head by a pitch on Aug. 5, which he admitted made him more tentative at the plate. He had just eight home runs prior to the beanball, but was batting .328 with an OPS of nearly .900; after getting hit, he hit .245 with a .658 OPS and spent the second half of August on the disabled list. The concussion wasn't the reason he wasn't hitting homers, but it may have been the reason that he slumped for the last two months of the season. On the other hand, he also may have simply worn down. Prior to getting hit, he'd played in all but one of the Mets' games that season and 426 of the Mets' past 431 games over the past three seasons. Maybe he just needed a break.
The Forecast for 2010: Basically, Wright had three problems last year: Citi Field stole some of his homers, he didn't see righties as well as in the past, and post-concussion syndrome sapped his late-year offense. Each of these could have been an accident — and the concussion certainly was — but they raise nagging questions about Wright's power performance going forward. Understandably, the major projection systems have the same uncertainty and whenever that happens the natural tendency is to split the difference between the best and worst case scenarios. But life rarely happens in the happy medium.
The Bill James Projection system predicts Wright will hit 23 homers, drive in 100 runs, and hit .302 next year; CHONE predicts 23 homers, 97 RBIs, and .305. — almost exactly the same, and almost exactly the simple arithmetic average of his 2008 and 2009 numbers. I don't buy it. I think his strikeouts will stay higher but his home runs will go back up, with a correspondingly lower batting average. Say, 28-29 homers, with an average around .290. He's still one of the best-hitting third basemen in the world, of course, and he's only 27. There are a lot more hits left in his bat.