2011 Evaluation: David Wright

David Wright suffered through his worst professional season in 2011. I would argue that was a good thing for Mets fans.

Why? Because had he performed to his usual standard, Wright would likely be a valuable trading chip this winter, and have been pawned off for a plethora of prospects. Depending on your perspective, that’s either a great thing or a terrible thing. Me, I like the way David Wright plays the game, and I like rooting for him perhaps because he is one of the Mets few “homegrown” position players in their history who became a legitimate star. Watching him grow up and evolve from his rookie debut and seeing him through his ups and downs has established a strong fan-player bond that I’m not ready to give up any time soon. In short, D-Wright will be one of the very few reasons I’ll continue to turn on SNY to watch the Mets in 2012.

But enough about me, let’s discuss David. Again, 2011 was his worst season ever as a professional — probably in his life. I’m going to go on a limb and assume that playing with a broken back might have had something to do with his struggles — offensively and defensively. At the same time, we have seen him deteriorate on both sides of the ball ever since the Mets began playing in Citi Field — which is another issue that I can’t consider coincidental. After changing his approach in response to the cavernous home park dimensions in 2009, Wright when the other way around for 2010, this time changing not only his approach but his swing mechanics. Some also point to the Matt Cain beaning as a reason for Wright’s drop in offensive performance, and it’s hard to discount that theory; at minimum the beaning has contributed somewhat.

In addition to his offensive problems, Wright’s defense has steadily and dramatically regressed since winning a Gold Glove in 2007 and 2008. Many people feel that he didn’t deserve the hardware in those years, and though I can’t disagree, I can state confidently that Wright was a strong defender back then — maybe not the best, but certainly very good to excellent. His hard work to improve his defense beginning as a rookie in 2004 was well documented, and one has to wonder if winning the awards caused him to slack off a bit on keeping his defense sharp. Again, his broken back may have played a part in his poor defense — including lack of practice reps — but there isn’t any obvious excuse for his defensive regression prior the injury.

2012 Projection

The fan in me expects a complete turnaround by David Wright next year, helped by being 100% healthy and the drawn-in fences. The realist in me wonders if Wright will go back to the swing mechanics that made him a star from 2004-2008, and if he’ll go back to the relentless defensive drills that turned him into an elite third baseman.

And then there’s the dark, ugly consequence of Wright returning to form: he’ll likely be traded as a result. Quite a conundrum, no? Root for Wright to do well, and I might be rooting for his exit. Yet, wishing him to perform poorly isn’t satisfying, either.

What say you? Would you like to see Wright make a comeback? Do you think he can? Are you hoping he’ll play at his best again because you want to see him have success, or so that the Mets can trade him away? Post your notes in the comments, please.


Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Tommy2cat January 3, 2012 at 7:32 am
    Hi Joe – Happy New Year – a Brand New Season is upon us!!!

    Here’s to hoping that the Wilpons are gone before David Wright is traded (another Irish Blessing of sorts).

    Here’s what I think: David Wright has focused too much on his physical development and not enough on refining his skills, both offensively and defensively. I think that he tried to grow as large as the Citi Field dimensions and, as a consequence, his game fell short.

    When I think of the good (great) David Wright, I think of his ability to hit the balls consistently with power to all ends of the field – much of what he demonstrated when he first returned from his back injury. I think of a smart baserunner. I think of a ball player who, in not trying to do too much, did much more than most others.

    The last two year, it appears that he’s getting in his own way. He’s lost his fluidity. He’s not completely muscle-bound, but his agility has been compromised for the sake of additional and, I would argue, needless power.

    The remedy, of course, is that less is more on the physical fitness front. He needs to run more, work with his own body weight and work on sharpening his baseball skills.

    As a hitter, Wright needs to rediscover his ability to get the bat on the ball and hit it where it’s pitched. He won’t pull off the ball as much. In his case, the rest will take care of itself: a higher batting average, a higher slugging percentage, perhaps a lower homerun total, a higher run scoring total, and higher stolen base percentage and total and fewer strikeouts.

    As a third baseman, his range will improve as will the accuracy of his throws.

    In a word, David Wright needs to get out of the gym and back onto the field. A variety of factors have contributed to Wright’s offensive decline. One could argue that the home run competition at the All-Star game was as responsible as any other factor for the decline in his bat contact percentage.

    I think he’ll respond well. As for the dichotomy of his doing well, getting traded/ performing poorly & staying with the club – I’ll refer you to Soren Kiergekaard’s work “Either/Or” – situations such as this are not always resolved with an “either/or” proposition.


    • Joe Janish January 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm
      Tommy, I agree with you completely.

      As for Either/Or … wow. What other Mets blog … or sports blog, for that matter, has its audience quoting Kierkegaard?

      Clearly, we have an elite group of intellectuals here at MetsToday – and it’s company I’m proud and honored to be part of.

  2. Mike B January 3, 2012 at 10:32 am
    Reguardless of some of my recent post on here, I am a DW fan. I am just truly dissapointed in the direction his game has gone. My biggest grief is the talk of talk of the Citi Field fences. If we could rewind to 05,06,07 and the mets told me to design a field just for DW. I would make one without a fence.

    Much of my early DW memories were of him slapping the ball to the oppisite field and the only thing that kept the ball from rolling forever were these walls. To me Carlos and Carlos where the big HR guys DW was the guy you couldnt get out. Does anybody remember Strike 2 and now the at bat can begin for Wright?

    I hope DW has a great year and maybe a team like the braves can pick him up to replace Larry Jones. Keeping these guys in the division would be great so we can keep an eye on our homegrown talent.

    • Mike B January 3, 2012 at 10:34 am
      Btw how did you ever find a picture of DW slamming his helmet in disqust after a strike out. Thats a rare find.
      • Dave January 3, 2012 at 11:23 am
        Thanks for your concern, Mike. I actually just placed the helmet down.

        The camera-man caught me at the best possible time.

        Stay cheery, and have a great new year!

        Your pal,

  3. JoeJP January 3, 2012 at 11:19 am
    My memories of Wright was that 0-2 was just the beginning of his at bat. Last season was bad, and you can mention his back again if you like, but as you note, and if it’s the stadium, okay, he was regressing before last season.

    Given that, the fact he had a bad season that could be at least partially explained by his back is not totally a good thing, since it could cover up other problems. Of course, the fences will be moving in, so Wright, Bay and even R.A. Dickey will all hit much better now.

    I do like him, including being home grown — I also like some other players they have now for that reason — but I have been disappointed in him for some time now. I have no pleasure in doing so, but it’s the case. As to him getting better and then being traded … I will wish him well. It will be unfortunate, but he has been here for some years now. And, honestly, though I like the guy, I don’t “love him” as some might certain players (Reyes as a Met mattered more to me), though it would signal the end of a mini-era. But, perhaps, it is time.

  4. SJ January 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm
    I do think his back had a lot to do with his issues in 2011…its hard to play baseball if your back hurts. And while he had already “regressed” in 2009-10 from his earlier years, what he did in 2011 was a steep drop off (about 90 points in OPS) from even what he did in 2010.

    So I think he will have a better 2012 just on the basis of being healthier. Though I do have some concerns as to whether the back issues will be a recurrent problem.

    And then of course there is the question as to how much he will bounce back. Its tough to look past the coincidence of his game dropping off once the Mets moved into Citi, and there has been plenty of talk of him tinkering with his swing, so I think the park has had an effect, but whether or not fixing the fences can undo the “damage” of the past few yrs, and whether he’ll be able to rediscover the old swing I’m not so sure.

    As baseball cliches go, I think some of Wright’s problems might be from “trying to do too much” …its been said often that he puts too much pressure on himself, works too hard etc, presses too much. How they fix that, I don’t really know, but hopefully they can. And Tommy might be right about him doing too much in the gym,… I think he made some good points. Though I do disagree about the HR Derby…Wright was so great in 2007 and 2008 (and his K% was actually a bit lower in 07-08 than it was in 05-06) that its tough for me to buy the theory that the derby somehow screwed him up.

    • Joe Janish January 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm
      Definitely agree with your assessment that Wright puts too much pressure on himself. As for the HR derby theory, speaking from practical experience both hitting myself and coaching other hitters, I think it holds some weight. Good habits take a long, long time to develop, but bad habits can be picked up rather quickly. I won’t say that the derby is all of the reason for DW’s troubles, but it could have been a contributing factor. When a player takes that many swings, he becomes fatigued and starts doing things to compensate — usually, “muscling up” or using his upper body instead of his entire body. Further, in that situation a player will generally alter his swing in such a way to lift the ball over the fence. Combine the “homerun swing” with fatigue, add repetition, and it’s fair to suggest that a bad habit might have worked its way into David’s routine. Even a small change can have a significant impact on performance — the old “snowball effect”.
      • SJ January 3, 2012 at 10:39 pm
        I agree that bad habits can develop pretty quickly. Which is another reason I don’t think the HR Derby is a factor in Wright’s decline…if it was I think you would have seen Wright’s decline start a lot earlier…not 2.5 years after he did the Derby.

        The Derby/ and fatigue might have been a factor is his crappy August 2006…but he bounced back in Sept of that year and then he had the best yr of his career in 2007, followed by another outstanding year in 2008…so its tough for me to believe that the Derby is some big factor in his 2009-2011 performance

        • The DZA January 4, 2012 at 6:16 am
          And of course a lot of that pressure he puts on himself is due to the ‘supporting cast’ (or lack thereof…) around him – in the past that has been down to injuries to similar level players: Reyes…Beltran…But now those guys have gone.
          Can David go back to the mindset he had when the cast has not been replaced?
          That being said I would not want to trade him – he makes me care.

          Also never start sentence with ‘And’…

        • HobieLandrith January 4, 2012 at 9:27 am
          Why are you so sure statistics can prove whether or not a bad habit was developed? It’s possible to hit well with mechanics that are not ideal. The theory is that Wright started swinging with more of an uppercut after the derby. Maybe it gradually got worse and worse until it’s where it is today. It had to start somewhere, no?
  5. mic January 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm
    2012 Projection:
    Mets cant afford even a bad David Wright and HAVE to trade him away to the Orioles. DW goes onto to hit .333/35HR and wins a GG.
  6. Dan B January 3, 2012 at 12:23 pm
    You forgot to mention the loss of Reyes and Pagan and Beltran and the effect on his RBI opportunities for 2012. I fear opposing teams will pitch around him and the effect that will have on DW’s approach
    • SJ January 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm
      Yeah he might have a few less RBI opps. Though since Wright was hurt for much of this yr and Beltran got traded in July…Wright and Beltran didn’t get to play together all that much this yr. if you go back to Wright’s last full season in 2010, Beltran didn’t play much and Reyes wasn’t on base very often.

      So 2012 might not be much of a change from 2010 in that regard…and hopefully Davis, Murphy, and Duda will continue to emerge so he’ll have more around in him the lineup than some previous yrs. But hopefully if they do pitch around him, he’ll learn to let them pitch around him and take the walks that he’s given.

  7. JoeBourgeois January 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm
    Joe, in re: Wright’s fielding, I assume you saw the link to this column @ Metsblog, and Michael Baron’s reaction:

    “His struggles appear to be a lot like Daniel Murphy‘s (although to a much smaller degree): when Wright has time to think, his arm slot becomes inconsistent and his throws become errant. However, in reactionary plays, he is brilliant with both his glove and arm.”

    Do you agree?

    • Mike B January 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm
      You mean you can open your eyes now the ball is in your glove? DW is definetly better when he doesnt have time to think(which goes for offense as well).

      I also dont think its not fair to compare him to Murph, even at a much smaller degree. Some people feel Murph would somehow be a good fielder at 3B but I dont believe that.

    • Joe Janish January 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm
      I would agree that one of DW’s throwing issues occurs when he has too much time to think; that had been a problem for him for at least since 2006 from my memory. Even when his fielding was at its best, he made shaky throws (though not always resulting in errors) when he had a lot of time.

      As for comparing his issue / issues to Murphy, I would disagree. Murphy has several problems on defense, including but not limited to footwork, timing/rhythm, and mental preparation. Those three elements specifically can be addressed and improved, but not without proper guidance and intense, deliberate practice — to teach his body to do what it needs to do. David has been through that, and knows what he needs to do; but, he needs to refresh and maintain what he’s learned.

  8. NormE January 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm
    When Howard Johnson played 3B for the Mets he would have a problem on throws when he had a lot of time; similar to David Wright. Too much time, as Mike B. says.

    Tommy2cat may be correct about the need for DW to stop building muscle mass. He needs to concentrate more on flexibility. I think that DW has lost some running speed, but how much of that is due to aging and how much to bulking up is hard to say.

    He is probably a better hitter when he is hitting about 25 homers a year rather than 30+.

  9. Glenn January 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm
    Whether or not Wright is traded will be due to other factors beyond his performance. If the Mets are within 5 to 7 games of a Wild Card (and there may be two of them) at the All-Star break, Alderson just may hang on to him. Remember, Alderson has two sometimes competing goals; to improve the team and to prevent the erosion of attendance. He’s not going to trade his best player if the Mets have even a slight chance to contend. If Wright is playing well Alderson can always pick up David’s option for 2013 and revisit trading him in the winter or even next July 2013. If Harvey et al, arrive at Citifield on late 2012 and show enough that 2013 will be the beginning of better things, Wright very well may remain in a Met uniform.
    • Joe Janish January 4, 2012 at 12:13 am
      If Bud Selig decides there will be five wild cards the Mets still won’t have a shot.

      OK, maybe they’ll still think they have a shot if there are five, but they still wouldn’t get one.

      There is no doubt whatsoever that there will be at least four teams better than the Mets in their own division, much less the NL overall. But yeah, you have a point, in that if there’s even an inkling of possibility, DW will stay around — just like they kept Reyes last summer for the same reason (attendance).

  10. argonbunnies January 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm
    I will root for Wright no matter what team he plays on. He’s maybe the only player I’d say that about.

    I’d like to root for him on a winning Mets team. That said, I can’t imagine that happening. Whatever his virtues, Wright has been a choker since the 2007 collapse, and all evidence points to him being one of the rare (but not incredibly rare) players who peaks at age 24.

    In a big spot, he’s basically an easy out for any right-handed pitcher with a slider. It’s frustrating to watch, and it’s a bad trait for the respected good guy leader face of the franchise.

    David Wright = hard work, talent, and impeccable character not paying off. Which is far too fitting a description of the Mets’ fate over the last several years.

  11. Matt January 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm
    I think he’s the only proven player on the team. Everyone else (pitchers included) has a much bigger question mark hanging over them – can Lucas Duda play right? Can Daniel Murhpy play second? Can Ruben Tejada handle 162 games? Will Ike Davis be healthy? Andres Torres? Johan Santana? Did Mike Pelfrey see a shrink in the off-season? Will R.A. make it down from Kilimanjaro? Etc.
  12. Rob January 3, 2012 at 9:47 pm
    I think that the chances of the Mets winning a Wild Card spot in 2012 is about the same as having someone quote from Soren Kierkegaard on this blog….d’oh!! Okay…maybe they do have a shot…
  13. gary s. January 4, 2012 at 1:03 am
    If the back problems keep him away from the weight room, ironically it could be a blessing to DW.Having Ike back at first with his height and long arms will also cut down on a lot of throwing errors and possibly work to free him up on concentrating more on his at bats.
  14. argonbunnies January 9, 2012 at 2:33 am
    On Sept 4, Wright was hot and his season line stood at .278/.369/.468, which doesn’t look like his prime, but is quite good for the NL in 2011. That’s about the same production as in 2010, but even better, he looked great and it was tempting to credit his earlier struggles to his back injury.

    Over his next 100 plate appearances, he hit .178/.260/.289 with 28 Ks in 22 games.

    Regardless of his health, over the last 3 years, Wright has proven to be unable to maintain an effective swing. He finds it for 10 games, and we all start thinking the Wright of old is back, and then he loses it.

    Wright’s a credit to the #3 or #4 hole for 50 games a year, and for the other 100 he should be hitting 8th instead of killing rallies.

    Citi Field’s walls aren’t going to make a lick of difference during the times when he can’t make contact.