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Monday, May 10, 2010
Everything's not all Wright

By Mark Simon

Right now David Wright already owns a place in the Mets record books for striking out in eight straight at-bats.

He’s got seven strikeouts in his last two games. No Mets position player has ever struck out at least three times in three straight games. Wright’s performance Monday against the Washington Nationals will determine whether he becomes the first.

Wright has struck out a total of 41 times in 135 plate appearances. Mathematically speaking, that means he’s striking out 30.4 percent of the time.

The belief Wright was striking out too much became popular last season after he struck out 140 times.

At his current pace, if Wright gets the same number of turns at bat that he got in 2009, he’s going to strike out 188 times.

Think of the impact of those 48 extra strikeouts? If that scares you, consider this.

In 2008, an injury-free season, Wright came to bat 735 times.

If Wright comes to bat 735 times this season, do you know how many times he’ll whiff?

The answer: 223 (which just happens to be Mark Reynolds' major league record, set last year).

That would be an increase of 105 strikeouts from the 118 times he actually fanned in 2008. That wouldn’t just be a huge jump. It would be HERCULEAN.

If we haven’t made you nervous enough already, here’s one more thing to consider.

Two years ago, a baseball statistician published an article on the site “Statistically Speaking” asking the question: “When can we trust a sample size not to be small anymore?”

The article doesn’t seem to be accessible online now, but summaries exist at some of the more statistically-savvy baseball websites. The math’s a little complex,  we don’t get the formulas involved, and it’s not perfect (few things in baseball math are) but the concept in approach makes sense.

The gist of the article, as it relates to Wright, is as follows:

The point in which looking at a hitters strikeout rate is reliable with regards to evaluating how that player is going to perform for the season is 150 plate appearances.

We’ve beaten up on Wright for his strikeout totals and rates a couple of times in the first month of the season. We’ve twice previously looked at the statistical difference in his performance from some of his best seasons to the last two years, and there’s some interesting data there. But now, that data seems to take on a new meaning.

Wright is at 135 plate appearances and counting. We’re approaching the point at which the numbers really mean something, and we’d use a different term to determine how important correcting whatever’s wrong is to the Mets this season.

It’s critical.