I challenge anyone to look at David Wright’s numbers this year and not be giddy. A .571/.615/.857 line for a guy who had just 17 Spring Training at-bats is pretty impressive. Then you add in the fact that Wright is 5-9 since re-joining the lineup with a fractured pinkie and it becomes almost surreal. After seemingly watching an understudy play the role of Wright the past three years, it is wonderful to have the real deal back in the Mets’ lineup.
Of course, cynics will point to his .556 BABIP as a reason to rein in expectations for Wright this season. But I think it is important to note how much his first six games have already changed expectations for Wright this year. In the offseason, friend of the site Dan Szymborski had Wright projected for a .269/.351/.447 slash line with his ZiPS projection system. ZiPS updates during the season and now Wright is projected to hit .290/.373/.478 or an increase of 53 points in OPS.
Another potential reality check for Wright and his backers is that he got off to a quick start last year, too. After six games in 2011, Wright had a .364/.417/.545 line and his final numbers were nowhere near that good. However, it would be negligent not to mention Wright played significant time last year with a stress fracture in his back and how that altered his final numbers.
Once activated from the DL last year, Wright was very productive for his first 46 games (.311/.386/.503) and putrid for his final 17 (.167/247/.273). The end result was a .254/.345/.427 line for 2011 that left many wondering if Wright was done as an elite player.
One undeniable symptom of how Wright went from being on a Hall of Fame path to his results the past three seasons is his strikeout rate. Perhaps as a result of moving from Shea Stadium to Citi Field, Wright saw a significant increase in his strikeouts the past three years. Here are his K% rates the last six years, a number derived by dividing his strikeouts by his plate appearances:
2006 – 17.1
2007 – 16.2
2008 – 16.0
2009 – 22.7
2010 – 24.0
2011 – 21.7
If we go back and analyze Wright’s numbers from when he returned from the DL, here are his K% numbers for his hot stretch and his poor finish:
First 46 – 16.3%
Final 17 – 28.8%
When Wright first returned from the disabled list last year, his K% was right in line with what it was from 2006-08 and his overall results reflect that. His .889 OPS in that streak was not as good as his 2006-08 numbers, but they don’t stand in stark contrast to them like his overall numbers from 2009-11 do. Wright achieved these results while playing in Citi Field with its original dimensions. So, in my opinion, it is not entirely fair to blame all of Wright’s drop-off the past three years on the new park.
Regardless, it’s clear that Wright cannot handle a K% around 22 percent and be an elite player. So, how is he doing in that regard here in 2012? Wright has been to the plate 26 times and fanned only twice, for a 7.7 K%. Contrast that to his hot streak to open 2011, where in the same number of games he fanned eight times in 28 PA for a 28.6 K%.
Wright’s improved strikeout numbers actually started in Grapefruit League action. In Florida he came to the plate 20 times and did not whiff once.
As we saw from the final 17 games of 2011, it is too soon to declare Wright over his strikeout issues. But with what we have seen in limited action in both Spring Training and the regular season this year is extremely encouraging. It is the primary reason why Mets fans should feel better about Wright’s performance through six games in 2012 than a similar hot streak last season.