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August 28, 2006
  
The Wrong Stuff
by: Eric Simon on Aug 28, 2006 9:30 AM | Filed under: Articles

With the Mets in cruise control (though still playing exciting baseball), the team is in a most enviable position, one which will allow them to spend some time seeing where all of the pieces fit instead of being entrenched in a dogfight for a playoff spot like the rest of the league. We’ve already seen instances of this with the quick promotion of Oliver Perez to start this past weekend as well as the steady work for Guillermo Mota since he was acquired last week from the Indians.

The Mets’ magic number to clinch the National League East is 20, meaning any combination of twenty Mets wins and Phillies (or whomever is in second place) losses will net the Mets their first division crown since 1988 and simultaneously end the Braves’ string of eleven straight conquests of the East (not to mention three straight pre-re-alignment seasons atop the West).

Yet, with the Mets playing some of their best baseball of the season despite significant roster turnover, a serious problem has arisen: David Wright forgot how to hit. Now, that’s an oversimplification as well as hyperbole, but it only serves to illustrate how much poorer Wright has batted of late, especially when juxtaposed with his terrific production from earlier in the season as well as his emergence last season as one of the games rising stars.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but there are certainly a fair share of them out there. Firstly, there’s the Homerun Derby zombie which seems to afflict hitters who perform unusually well at the All-Star Game’s homerun competition. Bobby Abreu made this particular theory famous after his record-setting performance in last year’s competition. Here’s a look at his dropoff:

BOBBY ABREU

                       AVG   OBP   SLG
2004-2005 ASG         .303  .428  .537
2005 ASG - Present    .283  .414  .436

Abreu has continued to draw walks and get on base (the drop in OBP appears to be completely attributable to his declining batting average), but the most startling change in his batting profile has been the way his power has disappeared. Now David Wright:

DAVID WRIGHT

                       AVG   OBP   SLG
2005-2006 ASG         .310  .387  .543
2006 ASG - Present    .241  .331  .358

Pretty bad indeed. Since playing in the All Star Game this season (and almost winning that blasted homerun contest) David Wright has been awful. Like Abreu, Wright has managed to maintain a walk rate comparable to his pre-slump performance. Unlike Abreu, Wright has lost all semblance of respectability, as his batting average has dropped to that of a weak-hitting shortstop with power numbers to match.

Of course, no “theory” is complete without opportunity for rebuttal, so I’d like to present something I call The Ryan Howard Corollary. To wit:

RYAN HOWARD

                      AVG   OBP   SLG
2005-2006 ASG        .283  .348  .574
2006 ASG - Present   .321  .454  .705

Prior to this year’s mid-Summer classic, Ryan Howard was merely “very good”. In the month and a half since the All Star Game, Ryan Howard’s performance has been upgraded to “historically good”. So much for the homerun derby idea.

Before we let the conspiracy theory topic go, though, there’s another one to look at: The Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. Back on July 17th of this year, Carlos Beltran, Wright, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes all appeared on the cover of the ubiquitous sports journal, causing many to predict doom for the then-steamrolling Mets. I’m happy to say that the Mets are still in first place, and most of those guys are hitting as well or better than they were before the issue hit newsstands.

PAUL LO DUCA

                        AVG   OBP   SLG
4/3/2006 - 7/16/2006   .300  .340  .403
7/17/2006 - Present    .350  .389  .463

CARLOS BELTRAN

                        AVG   OBP   SLG
4/3/2006 - 7/16/2006   .276  .385  .603
7/17/2006 - Present    .308  .401  .699

CARLOS DELGADO

                        AVG   OBP   SLG
4/3/2006 - 7/16/2006   .252  .342  .506
7/17/2006 - Present    .282  .390  .626

JOSE REYES

                        AVG   OBP   SLG
4/3/2006 - 7/16/2006   .300  .357  .481
7/17/2006 - Present    .288  .335  .494

Reyes is the only one of the group who has declined at all, as his batting average has shown a difference of twelve points in batting average and twenty-two points in on-base percentage, while showing a thirteen point improvement in slugging. The other three have all shown substantial improvement across the board, and these figures seem to indicate that Delgado’s mid-season struggles may finally be in his rearview. On a side note, Carlos Beltran is awesome.

DAVID WRIGHT

                        AVG   OBP   SLG
4/3/2006 - 7/16/2006   .319  .388  .581
7/17/2006 - Present    .224  .319  .320

Wright’s post-SI numbers are even worse than his post-ASG numbers. It’s getting worse, too. In August Wright is hitting .200/.281/.282 and just .132/.209/.184 since I got married on the 14th.

None of this is to suggest that Wright has mysteriously lost the ability to hit. He’s likely too good a hitter and too hard a worker to not bounce back from this eventually. What he really needs from Willie Randolph are some days off. He’s only 23, but he played in 160 games last year and has played in 126 of the Mets’ 128 games this season, and he also played in the All Star Game (as well as participated in the aforementioned homerun contest). Factor in all of the preparation time he spends in the cage, on the field and in the weight room, and all of these things add up to a tired ballplayer. I’d really like to see Wright get a couple of games off here and there to give the kid some rest. Given the Mets’ division lead as well as the firepower up and down their lineup, there’s really no reason why Chris Woodward isn’t getting more starts at third.

The Mets need to get Wright back on track before the postseason. They haven’t clinched anything yet, but Baseball Prospectus says they are 99.9920% likely to win the division and 99.99985% to make the playoffs, so they have the luxury — like a football team who clinches early — to rest some of their starters in anticipation of the playoffs. With the lead that they have, there is no excuse not to have everyone rested and ready to rock when October dawns.


33 Responses to “The Wrong Stuff”

  1. Comment posted by Kevin in toga on August 28, 2006 at 12:02 am (#85532)

    Maybe the rain out is a blessing in disguise. If Willie gives him tomorrow afternoon off he will get a nice rest.

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  3. Comment posted by Mr. Met on August 28, 2006 at 12:19 am (#85533)

    I have a feeling he’ll find a cure for what ails him in Colorado.

  4. Comment posted by TheGlider on August 28, 2006 at 1:43 am (#85536)

    He only needs a couple days off, that’s all. He’s just too young to realize it. Willie should just make it happen. Look how bad Delgado was for a while and look at him now. David will eventually snap out of it before the playoffs. . . . . (I hope).

  5. Comment posted by metsfansince62 on August 28, 2006 at 2:10 am (#85537)

    Wrights frustration was visible in Saturday’s game. He probably needs a couple of days off both physically and mentally. Willie should tell him to stay away from Monday’s game so there’s no temptation to put him in the game.

  6. Comment posted by peeder on August 28, 2006 at 7:19 am (#85542)

    I think you missed the obvious theory, ahem, the contract.

  7. Comment posted by Mike on August 28, 2006 at 7:31 am (#85543)

    Probably a lot of factors. His slump pre-dates the ASG & HR Derby, so I reject that one, except in the sense that he didn’t get the time off he needed to rest. As of midway through last week, I wrote the following on my site:

    Since the Met’s loss to the Blue Jays on June 24, when he went 1-for-3 with a 3B, a BB, 1 R & 1 RBI, David Wright has played 48 games. That’s two months, as of tomorrow, for those of you playing along at home. 1/3 of a season. And his numbers over that stretch? Not pretty:
    174 AB, 41 H, 12 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 20 BB, 28 R, 24 RBI, & 4 SB w/ 2 CS. That works out to 236/314/374. And, no, he hasn’t had a day off in that stretch, which included the All Star Game and the stupid Home Run Derby. Just sayin’.

    In 2005 he began to slump a bit as the ASB approached, then returned after the days off like a cannon shot. You may recall, he was awesome in late July/early August last year.

    In fact, if I can toot my own horn for a second or two more, I wrote this on July 7 of this season, before the ASB, after the Mets beat the Pirates:

    After a mini slump, it’s sure nice to see [Wright] driving a homer over the right field wall. Anyone who’s watched this year knows that’s a good sign. That said, I wasn’t happy last night to hear Howie announce that Young Mr. Wright is slated to appear in the Home Run Derby (and not only because it was Howie Rose telling us). It’s not so much that I’m worried about “Derek Who?” falling into bad habits, trying to pull too much, jerking the ball, swinging for the fences.

    Though all such unpleasantries are possible.

    No, I just think he needs a little rest, and with not only the All Star Game, but also the festivities the day before, he’s not gonna get much. You may remember that The Prince limped into the All Star Break last season, falling to 281/369/470, after a so-so June and a full slump in early July. Then after the break he simply went nuts, including a 378/470/633 in August.

    Now I’m not saying he won’t do the same this season. (In fact, whatever slump he’s experiencing as the break approaches is not as serious as last year.) But I’m just saying.

    Today’s weather may be a godsend. If the game’s rained-out (and the Mets end up playing 161 games this year), then Dave’ll have two full days off. If I’m Willie I also give him game one vs. the Rocks on the bench. Then let him start raking in game two.

  8. Comment posted by Steve I. on August 28, 2006 at 7:37 am (#85545)

    Eric, I think you missed the obvious difference between Wright and Howard. Howard was a home run hitter coming into the Derby - David was a hitter who also hit home runs. If you watch his swings, it looks like he’s trying to jack any pitch over the plate ass opposed to hitting it up the middle. And (reluctantly) I must agree with you and Mike that he needs a rest - which I believe Willie was ready to give him until Valentin strained his hami. Comne Friday with the call-ups, Wright will probably see some time off.

  9. Comment posted by Mets fan in brooklyn on August 28, 2006 at 7:39 am (#85546)

    Depending On Weather Or Not The Phils Need The Game Because Of The WC If The Mets Get PPD Today When Can It Be Played.

  10. Comment posted by Steve I. on August 28, 2006 at 7:40 am (#85547)

    With that kind of typing looks like I need to wake up.

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  12. Comment posted by Confused on August 28, 2006 at 8:42 am (#85549)

    wasnt he hitting for like a week or so after the break?

    the downturn started right around when the mets started talking contract. hmmmm. I think like beltran last year he is pressing to show ppl he deserves the money.

    a couple of days off wouldnt hurt, but I dont think its all about him being tired.

    at least now he looks like he is going to the opposite field more.

    it would suck if this game is called and the mets would have to make it up. especially if it is at the end of the season. then again, it would be great if the phils needed this game to make the wc and the mets knock them off with a minor league lineup.

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  14. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on August 28, 2006 at 8:57 am (#85550)

    Wright is in a slump.

    ALL of the best hitters of all time have been in slumps (many even worse than Wright’s current funk).

    End of story.

  15. Comment posted by Tony on August 28, 2006 at 8:58 am (#85551)

    Wright is swinging the bat late, he looks tired as well. Wright will get it back. He is still hitting over 290. Delgado went through a TERRIBle Slump and now he is getting out of it. It will all come togther by end of Sept just dont bring back Milledge.
    tony

  16. Comment posted by Danny on August 28, 2006 at 9:15 am (#85552)

    I’m with MetsFanSince71, it’s a slump. I bet I could find a month in every player’s career where they batted .200ish (*new term) for the month. It’s a little more concerning in Wright’s case just because he is young, and there is not a longer and more proven track record to fall back on.

    Vladimir Guerrero in June this year: .243/.257/.408, 103 AB
    Vladimir Guerrero in July 2005: .208/.264/.376, 101 AB

    Manny Ramirez in May 2005: .234/.321/.404, 94 AB

    If hitters THAT good can struggle for an entire month, so can Mr. Wright. The point is, it happens.

    Is this a sign that maybe Wright will not become an uber-megastar that challenges for MVPs every year, but more like a Scott Rolen, a perennial All-Star that never quite cracks the Top 5 in MVP voting? Perhaps. But I think it is WAY too early to make any significant judgements. David is still well ahead of where a normal 23 year-old third baseman should be.

  17. Comment posted by Hubie on August 28, 2006 at 9:21 am (#85553)

    Any comparison to Abreu is just silly. This is Wright’s first deep slump since becoming a Major Leaguer. Everyone has one at some point. His bat has been a little slow lately but he’s too good of a hitter not to turn it around real soon. Lets all not get too analytical here.

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  19. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on August 28, 2006 at 9:29 am (#85554)

    I gotta agree with you Eric. I think Wright may be a little tired. Throughout his minor league career, the Mets were always worried about him tiring himself out because his work ethic is just too strong–too many sessions in the cage, too much time in the weight room, etc. Once or twice they actually admonished him for this. Obviously that’s a wonderful problem to have, but it can result in a late-season slump like this, especially when you consider that his All-Star Break wasn’t as relaxing as it could have been.

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  21. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on August 28, 2006 at 9:37 am (#85555)

    Lets all not get too analytical here.

    EXACTLY, Hubie. All this speculation is really futile.

    A slump is a slump and IMHO, I see no need for all the comparisons, stats, reasons, etc, etc….

  22. Comment posted by Mike on August 28, 2006 at 9:46 am (#85557)

    I agree with Danny & MetFan71 that it could juts be a slump.

    But, if so, it’s not a one month slump, but two months. That’s pretty long to be just a slump.

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  24. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on August 28, 2006 at 9:48 am (#85559)

    Some examples I found on the net (sorry the years weren’t available):

    Player - Final Season Avg - Slumps
    Gwynn .372 7-for-41 (.171)
    Walker .366 2-for-22 (.091) and 8-for-49 (.163)
    Piazza .362 1-for-27 (.037) and 5-for-40 (.125)

    I’m not saying Wright is as a good as hitter as any of these three (not yet anyway), but this illustrates that even the best of all time have slumps.

  25. Comment posted by Mike on August 28, 2006 at 10:01 am (#85561)

    Mets71-

    Agree. All batters slump, that’s why they don’t hit .384 for a whole seasonm every year.

    But Wright’s “slump” is not a 27, 22 or 41 at-bat slump. It’s in the range of 200 at-bats. That’s a third of a season.

    And like many of you, I watch Met games. I don’t believe his approach has changed, just the results. He still tries to drive the outside fastball to deep right. But with his bat speed slightly reduced, these flies don’t clear the wall, but end up in the leather.

    I really, really hope today’s game is rained out.

  26. Comment posted by Rich on August 28, 2006 at 10:05 am (#85562)

    Mike lets not hope todays game is rained out I am going and I hate going to Shea 2 days in a row for rainouts. For the weather its going to stop raining so this game will be played. Sorry to burst your bubble on that. Wright is just slumping right now. Lets all relax. Everyone who is crying about this are the same people who were crying about Delgado and saying we shouldve kept Jacobs. Everyone Relax.

  27. Comment posted by Rich on August 28, 2006 at 10:08 am (#85563)

    And is the weather map For right now in Flushing.

  28. Comment posted by Steve I. on August 28, 2006 at 10:09 am (#85564)

    I believe this is the last game this year with the Phillies so they’ll probably try make sure it gets played. I’d rather see it today than added onto the end of the season if needed.

  29. Comment posted by Mets fan in brooklyn on August 28, 2006 at 10:21 am (#85565)

    Comment posted by Steve I.

    I believe this is the last game this year with the Phillies so they’ll probably try make sure it gets played. I’d rather see it today than added onto the end of the season if needed.

    I’m With You With The Way The NL WC Is Shaping Up The Phils Might Need The Game To Make The Playoffs So I’d Prefer The Mets Not Get Rained Out Again Today.

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  31. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on August 28, 2006 at 10:33 am (#85566)

    If this game is rained out I hope philly needs to play it on the last day of the season to clinch the wildcard birth. Then the mets can put the hammer down on thier sorry asses and end thier playoff hopes as usuall. Now that would be a sweet way to enter the post season.

  32. Comment posted by sheadenizen on August 28, 2006 at 10:36 am (#85567)

    Agree. All batters slump, that’s why they don’t hit .384 for a whole seasonm every year.

    But Wright’s “slump” is not a 27, 22 or 41 at-bat slump. It’s in the range of 200 at-bats. That’s a third of a season.

    Mike, I agree with you. I don’t know what the answer is but Wright needs to sit for a few days. The problem….we have no utility infielders and with Valentin hurting, Woody has to play 2nd. The Mets should have DL’d Glavine and brought up Fonzie or someone to spell Wright. Anyway, too late now I guess. Wright can’t sit until Valentin gts better. Sad but true!

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  34. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on August 28, 2006 at 10:36 am (#85568)

    awwwwwwwww poor maury povich is going to get pre empted by the game. Should happen every day, his brand of crap tv has to go, along wioth jerry springer.

  35. Comment posted by Rich on August 28, 2006 at 10:44 am (#85569)

    Im out boys Im heading to Shea
    open thread is up

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  37. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on August 28, 2006 at 10:50 am (#85570)

    Maine is 2-0 vs phillie this year, 12 ip 2 er, not too shabby

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  39. Comment posted by Confused on August 28, 2006 at 10:56 am (#85573)

    awwwwwwwww poor maury povich is going to get pre empted by the game.

    isnt the game on sny today?

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  41. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on August 28, 2006 at 11:04 am (#85577)

    http://www.weather.com/weather/map/USNY0504?name=index_large_animated&from=LAPmaps&day=1

  42. Comment posted by argonbunnies on August 28, 2006 at 4:55 pm (#86185)

    Here are Wright’s streaks and slumps this year:

    APRIL - two short hot streaks, two short slumps

    - 15 for 32, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 3 homers, 12 RBI
    - 4 for 27, 2 doubles, 0 homers, 1 RBI
    - 8 for 23, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 5 RBI
    - 1 for 19, 0 doubles, 0 homers, 0 RBI

    MAY and JUNE - sizzling

    - May 4-June 24: 69 for 187 (.369) with 13 doubles, 1 triple, 13 homers (.658 SLG), 22 walks (.435 OBP), 46 rbi

    - never had any type of “slump” longer than 13 ABs (1 for 13 at the end of May) until:

    - June 25-30: 2 for 18, 0 doubles, 0 homers, 0 RBI

    JULY - consistent mediocrity

    - July 1-August 4: 26 for 100 (.260) with 6 doubles, 4 homers (.440 SLG), 16 walks (.362 OBP), 17 rbi

    - no hot streaks of more than 3 games

    AUGUST - hot for 5 games, cold for 15

    - August 5-10: 8 for 18 with 4 doubles, 5 rbi, 2 walks

    - August 11-26: 7 for 50 (.140) with 3 doubles (.200 SLG), 4 walks (.204), 8 runs, 5 rbi

  43. Comment posted by argonbunnies on August 28, 2006 at 5:13 pm (#86196)

    My conclusions from the above:

    Wright’s current two-weeks-plus slump is only troubling becomes it comes on the heels of a longer period (about 6 weeks, 136 ABs) that’s been devoid of any real hot streaks.

    Unlike Manny, Pujols, and A-Rod, who will hit you a homerun a week even in the deepest of slumps, Wright tends not to hit many homers outside of those times when he’s hitting well overall.

    To go from June 25 to Agust 28 without ever “getting in a groove”, and without a single big homerun, defies the expectations we have for Wright. He’s got immense talent and a great approach at the plate, right? Another hot streak should always be right around the corner, right? That’s probably just not realistic. “It’s a long season”, “anything can happen”, etc., etc.

    Statistically, I don’t see anything alarming in Wright’s season. If anyone believes in “due”, David is due, and a good Septemeber will leave his season stats about where we should expect them to be.

    If he goes another 50 ABs slugging .200, then I’ll change my mind and say we have a cause for concern.

  44. Comment posted by argonbunnies on August 28, 2006 at 5:22 pm (#86202)

    Third and final post on this:

    What’s more troubling than the numbers, to me, is what I’ve been watching. All hitters go through periods where they start swinging at pitches they can’t hit, or getting caught looking for one thing instead of being able to adjust, or seeing the ball late and taking late cuts.

    But really good hitters don’t get mediocre fastballs right down the middle, recognize them, take nice, healthy swings, and get beat.

    In addition to swinging at some crap, Wright’s bat is slow. If he’s NOT tired then I think we have some reason to think Wright isn’t the star we thought he was (no! no! no!). If he IS tired then Willie needs to realize it (or admit it) and rest him (for 2 days if not 3) at the earliest opportunity.

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