David Wright Is Not Getting Much Help From Jobu

We are a quarter of the way through the 2010 season and David Wright has appeared to put the ghosts of 2009 behind him.  After hitting only 10 HR all of last year, he has already hit 8 this year, helping him to post a wOBA just over .390 through the early part of the season. None of this is really surprising (his career wOBA sits at .392) and it appears to be business as usual for the talented third basemen.  The catch is that he has been able to post these numbers while striking out an alarming rate. 

As of this post, he was the unfortunate owner of a 38% strikeout rate, 2nd overall to Kyle Blanks and 6.7% higher than the next closest hitter with a wOBA over .390.  So what is causing this jump in strikeouts?  His strikeout rates spiked last year as well, but they are starting to spiral out of control this year.  A quick look at his numbers offers two possible solutions. First, though his Zone Swing/Contact rates appear normal, his O-Swing% has jumped up 4.5% while his O-Contact% has fallen 9.5%.  Swinging at more pitches outside the zone and making less contact is a quick and easy recipe for disaster. The second cause for concern can be seen in his pitch type linear weights.  He is mashing fastballs at a career high rate (wFB/C of 3.19), but this comes at the cost of looking downright foolish against the curveball (wCB/C of -2.01) and sliders (wSL/C of -2.58).  Apparently, opposing pitchers have noticed this weakness in David’s approach and have reacted accordingly, offering him 4.4% more sliders/curveballs and 8.4% less fastballs than last year.

Another (albeit small) contributing factor might be related to his platoon splits. David sports a career L/R split of .439/.370 for wOBA and 14.4%/22.9% K-rate. The wOBA has been even more extreme this year (.608/.339 andthe strikeouts have jumped to 19.2%/42.3%. This is even more troubling as Wright has so far faced even more RHP than usual. This year he has faced RHP 80% of the time, up 78% in 2009 and 74% in 2004-2008.  His platoon splits are well known, and he is presumably facing more RHP later in games. This decision was easier for opposing coaches last year, as he no longer had the left handed power of Delgado (or any power, really) batting behind him.  With the only lefties in the lineup being the unproven Chris Carter and Ike Davis, David will contine to face a lot of right-handed relievers.

The extra appearances against RHP does not explain why his strikeout rate against them has doubled though. It is early in the season, so it could just be bad luck on his part, and his strikeouts should regress towards his career line of 20.8%, or at least his line of 26.2% last year. Even if they don’t, he will remain a premier 3B if he can maintain his power, walk rates, and high BABIP.  Still, if David wants to approach his MVP caliber numbers of 2007, he should take strides to lay off pitches outside the zone and adjust better to the breaking balls.




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9 Responses to “David Wright Is Not Getting Much Help From Jobu”

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  1. Jimbo says:

    My theory? Early power may have been PED assisted…when his ideal approach would produce warning-track power. He’s morphing into a Mark Reynolds profile, seemingly swinging harder instead of smarter.

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  2. Dave Woody says:

    Really good post, dutchbrowncoat. Wright remains an offensive juggernaut at 3B, with or without a 30% k rate, that’s for sure. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to maintain his solid D, but not everyone can be Beltre or Zimmerman. I wonder if he’ll be able to get back to playing league-average D at third, or if he’ll eventually have to be moved to a different position. What are your thoughts on that?

    Jimbo, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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  3. Ari says:

    I wonder if Wright has backed off the plate, even by the tiniest of measurements, and that has caused the uptick in swings and misses on pitches out of the zone, primarily away. This would be consistent with a guy who was known to hover over the plate allowing himself to control the outer half, with quick enough bat speed to get to the inside pitches. Then he gets beaned in the head in August last year, and perhaps that has caused him to back off a little and be a little bit more tentative, resulting in much of what we are seeing. That’s what getting beaned in the head by a mid 90s fastball can do to a player.

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  4. dutchbrowncoat says:

    @jimbo -
    wright did come into spring training noticeably larger this year, but i find it very unlikely that he has touched PED’s.

    @dave
    i think the most interesting part about the strikeouts is that he has maintained quality production. he has even stolen 7-8 bases as well. as for fielding, his defense has been average/poor lately but i don’t really know where else they could put him.

    @ari
    good thoughts. any idea on how to look into that further?

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  5. Franco says:

    He’s not taking PEDs. He already had a lot of power to begin with.

    DWright is just swinging a whole lot harder on top of already long swing. David used to always mash breaking pitches and be a little slow on Fast balls, especially high heat. Now I think he just sits on certain pitches, swings regardless of where it is if he guesses correctly, and takes pitches he doesn’t guess on no matter where they land.

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  6. Josh Culp says:

    Too much Situational Training in the off-season… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3W-nCmN_Ovk

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  7. dutchbrowncoat says:

    @tom
    i saw the article but i couldn’t read it. also, another post was recently put up on the issue at amazin avenue. i guess we all started to take his strikeouts more seriously at about the same time. http://www.amazinavenue.com/2010/5/22/1483368/whats-wrong-with-wright

    @franco
    perhaps all of the muscle he added over the off season altered his mechanics a bit. though it seems like his swing varies pretty frequently anyway.

    @josh
    too much…or not enough?

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  8. Stephan says:

    I think what Jimbo meant was that he speculates that his earlier career power may have been PED assisted, not necessarily his earlier season and that he is now trying to make up the power that he lost from not using PEDs by swinging harder.

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