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Friday, May 13, 2011
Wright not yet right vs. right

By Mark Simon


The image on the left shows David Wright's performance vs. right-handers from 2009 to the end of July 2010. The image on the right shows his performance since then.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we looked at David Wright's performance against left-handed pitching this season. Since doing so, Wright is 4-for-10 against southpaws.

Now, with Wright having gone 3-for-his-last-24 against righties, it seems like a good time to check out the issues he's having with those pitchers.

Here's a snapshot:

Hot/Cold Zones
The images at the top of this article are what are called heat maps. A heat map uses color shading to illustrate tendencies and performance, based on pitch data from the Pitch F/X system used to track every pitch of every game.

The areas shaded in red indicate hot zones, in which the player is performing well. The ones in blue represent cold zones, in which the player is performing poorly.

In this case, the left-hand image covers Wright's performance from the start of 2009 to the end of July 2010, a period in which he hit .409 when he made contact (essentially his batting average when he put the ball in play, including home runs), and .280 overall.

The right-hand image shows Wright against right-handers since Aug. 2010. An 0-for-7 in the first two days of the month (with six outs coming against Daniel Hudson and then Tim Hudson) started a funk from which Wright hasn't recovered.

In that span, he's hitting .305 when he makes contact, and .230 overall. He's essentially sacrificed getting on base for more power (as his slugging percentage in the chart to the right indicates).

Statistically speaking, the sample sizes aren't huge, but they show what the difference has been for Wright. Since last August, right-handers have a much larger margin for error against him than they did previously.

In fact, the image on the left contains almost twice as much red shading as the one on the right. Wright's area for success has basically been halved.

Line Drive Rate
In that same time span, Wright's ability to hit line drives against right-handed pitchers has gone down by a considerable amount, according to our pitching/hitting evaluation tools.

From the start of 2009, to the end of July, 2010, Wright averaged a line drive for every four balls with which he makes contact (again, including homers) against right-handed pitching.

Since then, he's averaging a line drive every six balls times he made contact against righties.

To make that easier to grasp, think of it this way.

Let's say that Wright makes contact 300 times against righties this season, a reasonable projection based on his past performance.

If he were hitting at the rate he did in 2009 and two-thirds of 2010, he'd hit about 75 line drives. At his new rate, he'd hit about 50.

Lose 25 line drives in a season and the batting average plummets.

Issues with Breaking Balls
Wright's performance against breaking balls from right-handed pitchers has been an issue, similar to how it was in the early part of 2010.

Last season, Wright had two hits in his first 28 at-bats that ended with a breaking ball (curve or slider) from a righty. But a ground-ball single against a slider from Yankees starter Phil Hughes on May 22 started a run of success on those pitches for Wright that carried through June and held reasonably decent through the rest of the season.

He hit .270 in at-bats ending with those pitches, the rest of the way, including 11 hits that came in two-strike counts.

This season, Wright's start against breaking balls from righties has been miserable. He's 4-for-37 in at-bats ending with those pitches, with 13 ending in strikeouts.

When Wright makes contact with those pitches, he's not doing what he used to do best, hit line drives. He has three so far, about half as many as he should have, based on prior performance.

Conclusion
It's still VERY early in the season, and though there are a lot of signs that could indicate issues such as an injury (the news of his lower back issues became public this week) the sample sizes are small, so we're not making any judgments.

After all, a four-hit game, like the one another struggling New York hitter had earlier this week, could change perceptions pretty quickly, and maybe it gets Wright on the right track.