For much of the winter, the Mets suggested that a big part of their strategy for the 2010 season was the return to health of the many players who missed chunks of time thanks to injury in 2009. Left out of that theory was the role David Wright's power outage played in the dismal results of the 2009 season. There's good reason for that.
No one can be sure what will happen with Wright's offense in the coming year, mostly because we have never really seen anything like Wright's season before. Eric Seidman of Baseball Prospectus crunched the numbers and found that there have only been five other cases of a player suffering such a precipitous drop in their power after four seasons as consistent as the ones Wright turned in from 2005-2008. None of those players was as young as Wright, which means that we're swimming in fairly uncharted waters here.
The natural feeling is to go with the established mean level of performance and discard the outlier season, but it doesn't feel quite that easy. Wright's season is such an anomaly and comes without any surefire explanation, however, that it seems too easy to simply bank on a bounceback to the established levels.
Seidman doesn't get into the reasons for Wright's outage, but Derek Carty of The Hardball Times did do that and honed in on Wright's penchant for hitting to the opposite field in 2009. Wright jumped nearly 10 percentage points from 2008 in balls hit to right field, a number that seems a lot higher until you notice that 2008 was actually a historical low for him in that metric. He also hit a lot more fly balls to the opposite field than he had in previous years, something that would seem to be in line with the recent revelations about the organization prodding hitters to go the other way more often.
It's harder to hit homers to the opposite field and numbers show that Wright actually lost a few homers in right-center, but it still seems too easy to say that he needs to change his approach and, boom, the balls are leaving the yard again. Most troubling is the fact that he struck out 26 percent of the time in 2009, a huge jump from previous norms. Perhaps that was a result of waiting too long on pitches to try and go opposite field, but it certainly bears watching. Also a concern is a batting average on balls in play of .394, 50 points over his career mark. A regression there without an adjustment in the strikeout rate would be bad regardless of how his power numbers look this summer.
It's going to be fascinating to see how all of this plays out in 2010 because of all the moving parts involved in Wright's 2009 season.