David Wright’s Wacky 2009

This picture neatly sums up the 2009 season for the New York Mets. The Amazins hoped to celebrate the opening of Citi Field with a deep run into October. Instead, the club was ravaged by injuries. They lost up-the-middle stars Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, 1B Carlos Delgado and ace Johan Santana, among others, for big chunks of the season.

Third baseman David Wright wasn’t immune to the baseball injury equivalent of “Captain Trips,” serving a DL stint in August after a frightening incident in which he took a pitch off the helmet. But Wright must have felt like the last man standing. Forced to call upon a cast of Quad-A characters, the Mets ranked 9th in the NL in team Park-Adjusted Batting Runs (-28.1). Wright (+24.1) and a hobbled Beltran (+21.3) were the only batters to cross the +10 mark.

That’s not to say that Wright enjoyed a typical season, though. Since he hit the majors in 2004, the 27 year-old’s skill-set has been well-defined: a double-digit walk rate, a K rate in the high teens and an Isolated Power figure north of .200. Here are some of Wright’s key stats from 2005 (his first full year as a starter) to 2009. One of these things is not like the other:

2005: 11.1 BB%, 19.7 K%, .217 ISO, .343 BABIP
2006: 10.2 BB%, 19.4 K%, .220 ISO, .350 BABIP
2007: 13.5 BB%, 19 K%, .222 ISO, .362 BABIP
2008: 13.1 BB%, 18.8 K%, .232 ISO, .328 BABIP
2009: 12.2 BB%, 26.2 K%, .140 ISO, .400 BABIP

From 2005-2008, Wright was a metronome at the plate. But his ’09 season was just bizarre. His punch out rate increased considerably, his power output took a dive, and his BABIP was obscenely, unsustainably high.

That .400 BABIP was by far the highest mark in the majors. Among batters with 500+ PA, Ichiro Suzuki was second at a distant .384.

Wright does have the attributes of a high-BABIP hitter. He works the count well, possesses decent speed and has generally hit for a lot of power. His career BABIP is .350, and his Expected BABIP (xBABIP) in 2009 was .346. But even so, no one can keep up a mark that high. Wright had the third-largest split between his BABIP and xBABIP among hitters in ’09.

How goofy was Wright’s performance on balls put in play? Here are his batted ball numbers from this past season, compared to his career averages and the NL average in 2009 (data from Baseball-Reference).

Wright has generally hit for a better average on grounders than most, but that 2009 figure is ridiculously high.

He didn’t hit for near as much power when he lofted the ball or hit a line drive. Wright didn’t pull the ball quite as much, and when he did, he didn’t produce the same forceful contact. He fared better on balls up the middle (due to a big spike in batting average), but his opposite-field slugging suffered, too:

(Data also from Baseball-Reference)

Overall, Wright cracked just 10 home runs, with a 6.9 HR/FB% that pales in comparison to his near-14 percent career average.

Citi Field likely didn’t do Wright any favors. Greg Rybarczyk of Hit Tracker Online has a fantastic article in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010 that takes an in-depth look at Citi’s dimensions and how the switch from Shea Stadium to Citi Field affected various hitters. Rybarczyk concluded that Wright was the most negatively affected batter. According to Rybarczyk’s research, Wright had nine would-be homers become seven extra-base hits, one single and one out due to a “combination of deeper and taller fences”. Had those balls left the yard, Wright’s slugging percentage would have been .482 instead of .447.

Trip Somers Pitch F/X Blog has Wright’s 2009 spray chart. You can see some near misses here:

David also whiffed more often that he usually does. Those extra K’s are reflected in his plate discipline stats. Wright made contact with 87 percent of pitches within the strike zone in 2009, compared to an 89% career average (87-88% MLB average). His overall contact rate dipped to 80.4% (83.2% career average, 80-81% MLB average).

Courtesy of Somers’ Pitch F/X site, we can see that Wright’s extra swings and misses came against fastballs:

Wright’s whiff rate by pitch, 2008-2009

He saw a few more fastballs than usual in 2009: 62.6 percent, compared to a 60.8% career average. Wright didn’t whap those pitches with the same force. While still a quality fastball hitter in ’09, Wright was +0.69 runs above average per 100 pitches, well short of his career +1.55 run/100 mark.

Wright had an all-around wacky year. Going forward, it’s best to expect a lot of these Twilight Zone numbers to more closely resemble his career averages. In 2010, Wright will likely have a much lower BABIP, fewer whiffs and a higher ISO. Here are his projections for next season:

CHONE: .305/.391/.502, .197 ISO, 19.1 K%
ZiPS: .307/.396/.507, .200 ISO, 20 K%
Bill James: .302/.393/.499, .197 ISO, 22.4 K%
The Fans: .310/.398/.513, .203 ISO, 20.4 K%

David Wright should still be near the top of draft boards. It’s very likely that he’ll hit with more authority next year, giving owners his typical blend of power and speed.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

19 Responses to “David Wright’s Wacky 2009”

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  1. Bobby Boden says:

    Most likely this doesn’t account entirely for his massive BABIP, but the fact that he’s hitting to all fields a little more, I’m sure played a role in his BABIP increase. Where do you get this data?

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  2. David Golebiewski says:

    The batted ball data is from Baseball-Reference

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  3. Kirk says:

    I’m not sure I agree with the snippet that Citi Field took away 7 XBH, 1 error and 1 out. Unless you meant 1 XBH, 1 E, and 7 outs. he only had 17 2B/3B’s at home so if you took 7 of them away he would have only had 10 non-HR XBH’s.

    It also doesn’t explain why he wasn’t hitting HR’s on the road. But at least he had XBH’s on the road.

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  4. David Golebiewski says:


    That’s what Rybarczyk’s article suggests. I don’t want to reproduce it here, but he concludes that 5 doubles, 2 triples, 1 single and 1 fly out in Citi would have been out of the park at Shea.

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  5. Kirk says:

    The problem isn’t that it turns the doubles into HR’s, it’s that Wright would still only have 22 XBH’s at home.

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  6. David Golebiewski says:

    I’m not sure what the issue is. Five doubles, two triples, one single, one out= 17 total bases.

    9 HR= 36 total bases.

    Wright had 239 total bases in 535 AB, for a .447 SLG%. If he had 9 HR(36 bases) instead of those 17 total bases, he would have had 19 more total bases (36 minus 17). 239+19= 258 total bases. 258 total bases in 535 AB comes to a .482 slugging percentage.

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  7. Kirk says:

    The issue is that he would still only have 22 XBH which is way below his avg and does nothing to dispel the notion that he had a ‘wacky’ year. Or that he only hit 5Hr’s on the road.

    Unrelated to this I’m hesitant to just magically say that a flyball would have been a HR in Shea. But I couldn’t find the article you referred to.

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  8. David Golebiewski says:

    Oh yeah, I understand where you’re coming from. His power was down in 2009, regardless. But I think there’s a pretty good chance that he bounces back toward those career norms. We have one oddball season mixed in with four very similar, high-power seasons. I don’t think that he suddenly lost the ability to drive the ball.

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  9. Jimbo says:

    Who to rank higher, Wright or Reynolds??

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  10. Max Reid says:

    This is complete garbage, you sir are a sorry excuse for a blogger. Ive blogged better stuff on the toilet, and besides the mets are terrible and so are you. A real team is the oakland athletics because they totally rule, just like me and O’Doyle from Billy Madison.


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  11. Max Reid says:

    That is for Patrick fllod

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  12. ray says:

    The “experts” over at ESPN and another site still think Wright should be a 1st rounder in mixed leagues and I don’t see it. Going from 33 HRs and 124 RBIs to 10-72 is a huge dropoff. I say he’s a 3rd rounder at the earliest.

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  13. Dr. Logic says:

    I don’t like getting into how much ballpark factors play into a guys stats. Too many varibles. How many bloop doubles down the lines did Wright get because OF’s were playing 2 steps into the alleys? How many HR’s does D. Lee lose or gain because the wind is blowing in or out at Wrigley?

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    • Travis L says:

      I agree, these are very good questions, Dr. Logic. However, we don’t currently have any way of measuring them until we see widespread adoption of GameFX. We DO, however, have a pretty darn good method to adjust a player’s line based on general ballpark trends (which have all that hidden, currently-unmeasurable stuff as inputs). So while we can’t adjust for things perfectly, we do know a few things about each ballpark. Or are you uncomfortable saying that Adrian Gonzalez would have significantly better numbers if he didn’t play half his games in Petco?

      Look, it’s not perfect. But statistical analyses aren’t perfect, unless you’re Mendel and cheat on your data. So we do the best we can, then at the end of the year you honestly assess your processes.

      It’s a hell of a lot better than saying what you seem to be: because we cannot measure everything perfectly, we shouldn’t bother with analyses.

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  14. Dudley says:

    Folks, I think Max Reed was joking/making fun of real trolls on this site.

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  15. Paulie Cee says:

    All of these points would be valid if David Wright was a robot or a walking Strat-O-Matic card. Unfortunately he’s a living breathing thinking human being, who changed his ENTIRE approach at the plate because of the ridiculously enormous dimensions of his new home park. Subsequently he became a shadow of his former self, and is now a singles-hitting strikeout machine. For designing and building a ballpark that wrecked the psyche of their best homegrown every-day player EVER, the Wilpons deserve the “A-Holes Of The Millenium” award.

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  16. bigtimedeal says:

    Would I be insane to draft David Wright with the 5th overall pick? It’s a 10-team
    mixed h2h points league. Longoria (3rd round), Zimmerman (6), Reynolds (18), Youkilis
    (10), Sandoval (18), and Figgins (17) are all likely to be kept. ARod won’t fall
    to me and I don’t know if I can count on Wright being there with my 2nd pick, meaning
    the pickings are going to be pretty slim at 3B. Wright was the top scoring hitter
    in my league 2 years ago. Would I be foolish to pass on the likes of Braun, Fielder,
    and Utley to take Wright?

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  17. Justin says:

    Yes, you would be certifiably insane to take Wright with the 5th pick. That said, I think we should look at the fact he got hit in the head with a fastball. Couple that fact with the fact his K% went up, particularly on fastballs and perhaps you have another important variable in his “wacky” season. Odds are that his hysteria will wash away with enough ABs and those fastballs will again turn into bombs. Adding Reyes (hopefully) and Beltran back to the lineup will not only increase RBIs but also instill confidence and swagger. Then, add Bay hitting cleanup to protect him and you suddenly have the Wright we have all come to know and love (fantasy-wise). Reyes, Beltran, Wright, Bay is a sick foursome that is going to do A LOT of damage to the NL East. Do not let last year’s head hunting and last man standing effects hinder your drafting of this elite of elite.

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