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So what's David Wright's problem?

May 11, 2010, 10:43 AM EDT

David Wright is struggling lately, and this morning we have two competing explanations for it.  First is Tim Smith of the Daily News:

Wright won’t admit it, but Citi Field has gotten inside his head and he
can’t shake it. If a park can haunt a baseball player, then Citi Field
is haunting Wright. How else to explain how it has shrunk Wright’s power
since the move over from Shea?

Then comes Buster Olney:

Clearly, he is not comfortable at the plate; scouts are noticing that he
is flinching at breaking pitches, a tendency that they believe started
after Wright was beaned last summer in a game against the Giants.

To illustrate, Olney posts Wright’s pre-beaning stats from last year and his post-beaning stats through last night.  The difference is stark.  .324 average and eight homers in the 426 at bats before the beaning, .253 and nine homers in the 217 at bats since.  Power up, but contact and strikeout rates way, way down.

I suppose those explanations aren’t mutually-exclusive, but I’ve always been far less impressed with the “David Wright is spooked by Citi Field” line of reasoning. Ballplayers play in all kinds of parks as they come up through the ranks, and Wright has never been some home-run-or-die kind of hitter anyway.  If anything, he strikes me as the kind of player who would lament some lost homers but be happy with the extra doubles to the gap. In contrast, if scouts are seeing Wright flinch on breaking pitches it would definitely explain a lot.

Of course a third explanation seems like the most prudent one, at least for now:  he’s simply in a mini-slump.  Despite the recent wave of strikeouts, the guy is hitting .277/.403/.527 with seven homers on the year. That paces-out to a 36 homer, 114 RBI season.  The homers would represent a career high.  The .928 OPS he’s currently sporting would be the second best of his career if it lasted all season.

Could it be . . . nah, forget I even considered it. No one ever overreacts when it comes to the performance of a big-name New York player . . .

  1. Jonny5 - May 11, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    Maybe it’s simple mechanics? Bigger arms make for more power, but can he get the bat on the ball as well with his new guns? http://thebiglead.com/index.php/2010/02/22/david-wright-is-noticeably-more-muscular-and-coming-off-a-disappointing-season-this-might-mean/ A simple thousandth of a second can throw everything off. Of course that doesn’t really explain away his 2009 season either…. Well I guess that’s just as good as the whole “haunted by citi field” theory is.

  2. YankeesfanLen - May 11, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    It’s too bad Wright can’t be the spark that ignites this team. Without that, they’ll sooner or later continue their parrying with the Nats and Feesh, and that Tomahawk-thingy team will overtake them by the ASB. Sure they have Bay for all the good he does them, and oh, yes…..there’s Mr. steal home Frenchy, who doesn’t even get the concept of wristbands.

  3. enough already - May 11, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    Last year, there was no-one else hitting around him. No big surprise that some of his numbers were down, even though he ended up hitting over .300. This year, no-one is hitting. These things seem to be cyclical, one guy starts to hit, the other guys around him start seeing better pitches, they start to hit. Anyway, I think he’ll be fine. That said, they’ve been throwing in to him a lot and he has been flinching. I can’t say what it’s like to have a big league pitch come that close to you. Maybe people are just noticing more because they know what happened. or maybe we should just go back to blaming the media for everything. Yeah, that’s it. It’s your fault! Now go back to hitting, David! Show ‘em where you live!

  4. Paul C - May 11, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    the end of the article puts this in nice context. Fact of the matter is he always struggled w/ laying off sliders down and away. He’s just missing some hittable pitches which are setting those up more often. And I can’t wait for the end of the season when he hits 30 bombs and those “park in his head” stories stop. There’s a reason you won’t hear David Wright saying it…IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

  5. Joey B - May 11, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    “Last year, there was no-one else hitting around him. No big surprise that some of his numbers were down, even though he ended up hitting over .300.”
    It’s not to say either of the original explanations are wrong. They could be right. But I’m astonished that this didn’t get a mention. In 2008, he had 3.2 baserunners on in front of him per game, 3.0 in 2009, and now he’s down to 2.4. In 2008, Delgado hit 38 HRs behind him. Last year, I honestly don’t know who hit behind him, but since no one on the team hit more than 12 HRs, I’m going to assume it was not an intimidating presence. Davis has hit well this year, but no one is going to pitch to Wright unless they have to.

  6. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - May 11, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    It’s funny how people are blasting Griffey for falling asleep on the job (both literally and figuratively) when we could accuse sportswriters for doing the same. With the information available (fangraphs, b-ref.com, BP.com, etc), why aren’t sportswriters held to a higher standard when discussing/arguing about issues like this?
    For instance, what’s more likely, that David Wright is scared of big bad Citi Field? Or the following information:
    O-Swing Z-Swing Swing %
    2006 19.2% 66.6% 59.6%
    2007 21.7% 64.8% 66.2%
    2008 21.9% 69.6% 64.8%
    2009 21.5% 66.9% 61.0%
    2010 25.4% 64.4% 51.2%
    O-Swing = % outside of zone, Z = inside zone, Swing % = percent swinging at pitches. Looks to me like he’s swinging more at bad pitches and less at good ones, and overall making less contact.
    This info took 15 sec to find and throw into excel. What’s Tim Smith’s excuse for not doing the same?

  7. Jonny5 - May 11, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    That seems to be Beltran’s job since no one has really taken his place at the plate. He’s the one who will make the big difference if and when he comes back.

  8. Moses Green - May 11, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    Steroid testing.

  9. enough already - May 11, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    Booooo!

  10. Moses Green - May 11, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    You’re absolutely right – I join you. Booo Moses Green. Boooooo.
    I just hate David Wright so much. Gotta stop letting it eat me from the inside out.

  11. enough already - May 11, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    Geez, Moses, and I was beginning to think you and I could be friends. It’s over now!

  12. Moses Green - May 11, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    I’m with you – I’m done with me too! Let’s go have lunch and talk about that loser.

  13. enough already - May 12, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    Ok But the loser was 3 for 4 last night and is batting over .290. So let’s discuss something else.

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