David Wright has gotten off to an unusual start for the New York Mets in 2014. His batting average is .293, close to his career mark of .301. His power numbers and his ability to get on base are lacking however. What could be the cause of this disparity?
His on-base percentage is .335, well below his career OBP of .380, and his slugging percentage, which usually hovers around the .500 mark, is .382. It seems the entire Mets squad is struggling with the latter statistic. They’re 29th in the majors in slugging. Wright also has hit only two home runs.
Diving deeper into his batted ball stats, Wright’s line-drive percentage is at a career-high (28.3), his ground ball rate of 38.6 percent exactly matches his career percentage, but his fly ball rate is 5.5 percentage points lower than his career number of 38.8. These are not necessarily bad stats, in fact, hitting more line drives and fewer fly balls is a great approach at spacious Citi Field. But in his career, Wright’s fly balls have gone over the wall at a rate of 13.5 percent. This year, his HR/fly ball percentage is only 4.2 percent. He’s hitting long fly balls that are staying in the park.
One could blame Citi Field, where it’s been cold and windy so far this season, but Wright has hit both of his home runs at home, and he has a higher slugging percentage there than on the road. Like Milli Vanilli, can we blame it on the rain?
The Mets have played in cold, damp and windy conditions a lot, even away from home. As the weather warms up, it’s possible the ball will carry more. Could there be something physically wrong with Wright? Early in the season, he had trouble reaching first base on routine throws. Lately, he’s been throwing better. He was also one of the Mets stricken by the flu bug. Whatever the reason, Wright has not been as powerful as usual.
As for his OBP, he’s been chasing more pitches out of the strike zone lately. It’s been a pattern in his career. When his teammates struggle, he feels he has to swing at everything to make up for it. That’s not his game. He needs to go back to being patient and taking walks if he doesn’t get a strike.
Part of the problem could also be the dearth of left-handed pitching the Mets have faced. He’s been smashing lefties as usual, hitting .468/.480/.617, but in only 50 plate appearances. In 156 plate appearances against righties, he’s hitting a modest .236/.288/.306. In his career, he has a 1.015 OPS against lefties versus an .837 OPS against righties, so his performance against right-handers is well below his career norm.
On a positive note, Wright’s numbers are trending upward. In May, he’s hitting .333/.364/.464, which is more Wright-like. However, he still only has one homer in that span.
It’s only May, and Wright is showing signs of returning to his usual form. If he keeps hitting the ball hard, hopefully the home run rate will increase as well. But he needs to stay within himself and not try to hit home runs. That would do more harm than good.