Friday, December 4, 2009
Will David Wright's power return?
After writing some unflattering things about Mike Pelfrey, Bob Klapisch wonders about David Wright's odd power outage this season:
They’re just as pressed for time with Wright, who everyone assumes will return to his power-hitting ways in 2010. The wishful thinkers in the organization are ready to call 2009 an aberration, but the question is why. Wright is playing in a new ballpark he obviously hates – it’s 37 feet deeper in right-center than at Shea — and ownership made matters worse by announcing the dimensions won’t change next season.
If the Mets couldn’t bring themselves to make the power alleys more symmetrical and less daunting, they could’ve at least removed the second 8-foot panel in left-center, the one that turns the wall into a 16-foot skyscraper.
Yes, we’ve heard the counter-argument. Making Citi Field more home run friendly will only sharpen the fangs of Met-killers like Chase Utley, who hit nearly as many homers in Flushing last year (four) as Wright (five) and actually finished ahead of Carlos Beltran (three).
But Wright and Beltran have to love Citi Field if they’re going to flourish, and the Mets need both to be more than glorified singles and doubles hitters at home. Clearly something was amiss with Wright. A hitter can’t go from 33 homers to 10 without some underlying reason. Either Wright’s swing needs to be recalibrated, or someone has to get in his head, just like Pelfrey’s.
Prior to 2009, Wright averaged 29 home runs per season. He was consistent, too: 27-26-30-33. He's always been consistent. In his four previous seasons, Wright's batting average and on-base percentage and slugging percentage never strayed far from his career averages. Over the course of four years, he firmly established himself as a .310/.390/.530 sort of hitter. You could set your watch by the guy.
Until 2009. Oh, his batting average and on-base percentage were still dead on target, same as usual. He hit 40 doubles, as usual. But the home runs disappeared. Instead of hitting 30 home runs, Wright hit 10. Which is what has Klapisch all worked up.
Is Flushing's new yard the problem, though? Wright hit only five homers there ... but that means he hit only five homers on the road, too. I can't get inside his head, but I'm not sure it was Wright's head that kept him from hitting more homers in road games.
For what it's worth, Wright's line-drive rate was the highest of his career (by an eyelash) and his fly-ball rate was down slightly. The outlier was his home runs per fly ball, which was just seven percent, compared to roughly 16 percent entering the season. So either his fly balls weren't going as far as usual, or they were simply flying to the wrong part of the outfield.
Yes, the deeper dimensions in the new ballpark probably played a part. My guess is that if you accounted for the ballpark and the time Wright spent on the disabled list and poor luck, you could reasonably push him to 20 home runs.
Which isn't 30. But if he'd hit 20, nobody would be worrying too much about him.
So I'm not going to worry. Not yet. In 2009, there were more home runs hit by right-handed batters in Mets home games than in road games. Sometimes the statistics trick us, and sometimes our eyes do. I'm willing to bet that David Wright's pre-2009 body of work shows up again in 2010.