There is no superstar in Major League Baseball who gets less credit for all he does than David Wright.
For someone who is a Top 10 hitter in the sport – and who is the best third baseman not playing for the Detroit Tigers – Wright never seems to be placed in his rightful spot amongst baseball’s elite players.
Consider these two stat lines, from the 2013 season:
Player A: .311/.382/.514, .382 wOBA, 141 wRC+, 5.9 WAR, 154 G
Player B: .313/.395/.526, .397 wOBA, 159 wRC+, 6.0 WAR, 107 G
Player B, as you may have guessed, is Wright. Player A is Robinson Cano, of whom people speak of a great hitter and as a superstar.
Let’s make this a little more fun, and consider these stat lines, spanning the respective players’ entire careers. Since WAR is an accumulated stat, I’m using WAR/150 to show how many wins a player has generated over a replacement player per 150 games in their careers.
Player A: .302/.382/.507, .382 wOBA, 137 wRC+, 5.5 WAR/150
Player B: .321/.399/.568, .407 wOBA, 152 wRC+, 5.0 WAR/150
This time, Player A is Wright, and Player B is Detroit Tigers Third Baseman Miguel Cabrera.
Now, Cabrera’s offensive statistics are superior to Wright’s in every single category, but the most important stat in that entire comparison is the last one: WAR/150.
Wright holds a significant edge in this category, so much so that if both Cabrera and Wright were to go on and have 20-year careers, at this rate Wright would provide his team with 10 more wins than Cabrera would.
Now WAR is not perfect, and there are certainly legitimate points that can be brought up to refute certain aspects of it, but it is the best barometer of a player’s overall impact on his team that exists.
And it just so happens that that stat says that Wright is the superior overall player.
Now I’m not saying that Wright is a better hitter – he’s not. Cabrera is clearly a much better hitter than Wright is. But Wright is the better player.
Let’s delve a little deeper to examine why.
First of all, Wright has been a much better defender throughout his career. In his career, Cabrera has been worth -13.1 Defensive Runs Saved/150 when playing third base, while Wright has been worth -1.23 DRS/150.
Unlike Cabrera – who has been consistently bad at defense throughout his entire career – Wright’s defensive down years came from the 2009-2011 seasons, or the time when he struggled with concussions, a broken back and several other factors which hindered his on-field performance.
In 2007 and 2008, Wright deservedly won the National League’s Gold Glove award, and should have won a third in 2012 when he posted 16 DRS.
Wright is also a much better baserunner than Cabrera is, posting a career 2.27 Baserunning Runs/150, while Cabrera owns a -1.87 BRR/150 mark for his career. That is a difference of 4.14 runs per season.
How big is that difference? There are 22 entire teams in the MLB that have a combined BRR of less than 4.14.
I can hear some of you screaming that baserunning and fielding are not enough to make up for the offensive gap – I’ve heard it thrown around in the numerous Cabrera-Mike Trout MVP arguments as well – but the stats show otherwise. The good folks over at Baseball Prospectus can explain why better than I can.
And yet for some reason, Cabrera is viewed as a sure fire first-ballot hall of famer, while Wright is perceived to be sitting on the fringe.
It’s time to give Wright what he deserves – the title of Best Third Baseman in Baseball.
Joe Vasile is a play-by-play announcer for Widener Pride football and the host of “Ball Four” on WTSR on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. – Noon. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.