David Wright’s struggles overshadowed by inept offense

David WrightThe 2014 Mets sit at 13-11; a welcome surprise to start a season that’s probably more important than anyone associated with the team is willing to admit. Still, the driving factor behind the team’s early success has been solid pitching. The hitting, on the other hand, has left much to be desired. The Mets’ offense ranks dead last in the National League with a team batting average of just .218, near the bottom in OBP with .295, last in slugging, last in ISO, near the bottom in strikeout rate, and the list really just goes on from there. In fact, the only two regulars with an OPS+ above league average are Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares.

Curtis Granderson’s performance and comparisons to Jason Bay are in full swing, Travis d’Arnaud‘s struggle to acclimate to major league pitching hasn’t gone unnoticed, and Ruben Tejada has all but been written out of the picture at this point. The struggles of one prominent player haven’t been discussed nearly as frequently, though.

David Wright‘s a star third baseman who’s obviously earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to being in the midst of a funk at the plate, but there are some aspects of his performance to this point that are a bit alarming. His average and OBP are far from horrible but clearly not up to his typical standards. More concerning are his strikeout rate, walk rate, ISO, and slugging percentage. His current walk rate of 6.4% is far worse than he’s ever put up, even in his worst seasons. His strikeout rate, which seemed to peak during that weird stretch of 2009 to 2011 and returned to his career norms the last few seasons, is back up to almost 24%. His .051 ISO is astonishingly low, his slugging percentage is over 170 points lower than his career rate, and he’s doing this with a relatively high BABIP.

Inspection of his swing rate as it relates to the strike zone reveals that he’s swinging at more pitches on the inside half of the plate and less on the outside (as compared to his career tendencies). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wright has frequently grounded out to the left side of the infield. Additionally, he has slightly elevated first pitch strike and swinging strike percentages. Note the distribution of ground balls in the FanGraphs spray chart below:

Source: FanGraphs

We obviously mustn’t blow things out of proportion here. We’re still firmly in small sample size territory, especially when it comes to an elite hitter like Wright. This is probably just your run-of-the-mill slump at the plate, though at over 100 plate appearances we can consider this a prolonged slump. Of the many problems the Mets have offensively at this point, Wright is probably the last one the team needs to be worried about. They can’t afford to have Wright’s slump to be too prolonged, however. The pitching will inevitably stumble, and a lineup with a productive Wright may mean to difference between a rough patch and a complete meltdown. The offense as a whole will need to stabilize if this team has any hope of pushing for a wild card berth. Although Wright can’t do it alone, they can’t do it without him.

5 comments for “David Wright’s struggles overshadowed by inept offense

  1. Jim OMalley
    April 27, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Agreed. There a lot of offensive woes at this point and Wright is right in the middle of it. He has had only what one HR and that was on opening day?

  2. Chris F
    April 27, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Very interesting piece Rob. I think you have chosen something we’ve all seen, but somehow are afraid to talk about, or place into the bigger picture. Your article made me think of some things in association:

    1. The Grandy providing cover experiment (pretty much as you could predict) was a failure. Hoever, did this line shift make DW look differently at approaching ABs?

    2. Being the Captain, is DW enforcing the ridiculous batting philosophy of Alderson to his own detriment? He used to swing a lot at outside pitches and strike out…but also drive to opposite field…is this switching off his power to accommodate better ABs and show he can lead by example in the money grubbing stimulus incentive offered by the hair brains upstairs?

    3. I think a look at Murph will reveal more issues too.

    4. Your note of where the Mets stand collectively in offense, and where individuals stand really highlights the potential complexity and vagaries of using cumulative numbers to adjudicate individual occurrences. For example, Tejada is an unmitigated disaster, yet he has come up with a few clutch grabs that even in a game where his other production stinks has the capacity to turn the corner for a win or change momentum leading to a win. That can’t show up in any metric I am aware of, and yet is critical “instantaneously”. Strings of games can be filled with such occurrences that don’t show up. In Wrights case, the base hits are helping, and they must be given our record. This prompted me to think this year about developing a new way to score games and assess value in the moment events occur.

  3. George
    April 27, 2014 at 11:03 am

    It’s probably harder to hit when your lineup offers very little support. Granderson the big deal was would force teams to pitch to Wright. Didnt work out.

  4. Name
    April 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    The zero power concerns me. He’s not driving the ball. Wright has just 2 doubles and 1 HR this year and averages 1 XBH per week! The same can be said for Murphy and as a result our 3-4 combo has provided almost 0 ISO so far.

    Also, time to be concerned about Chris Young. Even though he only has played 10 games, the no walks so far is very concerning. Hitting Lucas Duda behind him makes no sense.

    And finally, TDA has been hitting. 15 games: .286/.364/.408 with a .772 OPS. Being done with a .295 BABIP too.

    TC needs to shakeup the lineup.
    1 EY
    2 Murphy
    3 Wright
    4 Duda
    5 TDA
    6 Grandy
    7 Chris Young
    8 Tejada

  5. Jerry Grote
    April 27, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    not terribly concerned with David … it seems like he’s always in a position of being at bat, with one or more outs and EYJ on second or third.

    I think his ISO has to be placed, in some level, in the context of what the game is asking him to do – *especially with Granderson’s complete meltdown behind him*.

    Eric Young has scored 20 times in 22 games, and half of the time (10, literally) it’s been because of David Wright. Without looking, I’m willing to bet nearly every single time that run put the Mets into the lead. If David is looking to pull or drive the ball hard each time, I’m guessing that number goes down from 10 to 2.

    And the entire productivity of the team falls by 10% … and starting pitching is without a lead in the early goings, resulting in heavier work by young pitchers.

    Statistics help, but in context. David will be fine.

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