Every so often a team is on the verge of competing, but needs a big bat to push them over the edge. In 2014, the Mets are that team, but when the trading deadline came and went at the end of July, no moves were made. That’s because the Mets already have that big bat in David Wright. They are just waiting for him to be David Wright.
2014 hasn’t been overly kind to Wright who’s currently batting .271/.331/.390, numbers that aren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but disappointing compared to his career .299/.378/.498 line that Mets fans have become accustomed to seeing year after year. The only times we haven’t seen Captain America be his usual wonderful self is when he’s hurt, or when he was striking out too much, like in 2009 and 2010. Wright already has 85 Ks this year, which is a higher pace than he had last year before getting hurt. His power numbers are also down as his ISO is .119 and below league average, and his SLG is .390, almost identical to league average.
According to his plate discipline numbers, he’s swinging at pitches outside the strike zone at a 26.5% clip, which is no where near his 2010 mark of 30.1%, but still above his career rate of 23.1%. Part of that may be that until the recent emergence of Lucas Duda, Wright still didn’t have much protection behind him in the lineup, and might have been trying to do too much on his own. However, Duda has been hot and hitting behind Wright consistently since July 8th. That should have helped Wright, but it hasn’t. Since that date, Wright has one home run, 10 RBI, an ISO of .089, and a SLG of .354. Protection is not the issue.
Another potential answer is that Wright is seeing sliders at a rate he hasn’t seen since 2011. When conducting the eye test, it seems like Wright has gotten into the habit of swinging at low sliders away again. His swinging strike percentage backs that up at 7.9%, which is the highest he’s had since 10.4% in 2010. None of these numbers are so drastically off the scale that they identify one huge problem, but they are all small symptoms of a larger issue.
Wright is also dealing with injury. A bruised left rotator cuff forced Wright to miss a short stint of games and required a cortisone shot before the All-Star break. Since the break, Wright is hitting .186/.250/.203 with a .017 ISO and a 20.3 K%. Terry Collins stated recently that he asked Wright if he wanted a day off, and Wright suggested he could get through this funk on the field. Wright is the captain of the Mets, and is a leader by example. He wants to play through the pain and help his team. Unfortunately right now he’s doing the exact opposite.
Clearly his shoulder is still an issue, because by his own admission “When you’re in something like this, when you don’t have it, you’re guessing wrong and it seems like you’re swinging before the ball is out of the pitcher’s hand.” That is a clear indication that either the player is not in the right mind-frame or there is a lingering injury that is keeping the player from performing. In this case, it might be the latter causing the former. It’s time for Collins to step up, be the manager and sit Wright for a short time.
Wright should most likely be put on the 15-day DL to give that shoulder time to properly heal. In that time, Collins could play Eric Campbell who’s playing time has been severely cut over the past recent weeks, and see if this guy can really be a long-term asset. Since the Mets are numerically an extreme long-shot to make the playoffs anyway, it’s not like the team is giving up on the season, and it might even provide the young players a kick in the pants to step up while the captain is down. Then, hopefully, a revived Wright can come back and be the big bat in the lineup that the Mets are hoping for. It’s a move that requires courage on the part of the manager and humility on the part of the player. Both men are capable of doing that, but we need to see it happen. Otherwise, the injury could get worse, the team could suffer, and an issue in 2014 could become an issue in 2015. And no Mets fan wants that.