Sunday, June 05, 2011

David Wright - The Forgotten Star

The only time you hear about David Wright, the third baseman of the New York Mets, is either a trade rumor or an update about his injury (stress fracture in his back). And that's just this year. Even last year, was there ever a quieter .503 slugging percentage ever in the history of baseball? Perhaps a little bit of hyperbole, but the point is a given. Wright has virtually disappeared from the game when the top players around the league are talked about.

And perhaps you might think that his performance has slipped. You would be right for 2009, his first year in Citi Field, a place where baseballs go to die. But last year, he bounced back to post 29 homers, 36 doubles and a 131 OPS+. That's still star material. Even his 2009 campaign wasn't that bad. His status as a player has been largely forgotten since the Mets became irrelevant. This year he was off to a mundane start when it was learned of his injury. Even if he comes back in a month or so, most of this season will be a wash for the guy and that will further dampen how he is viewed around the league.

Sure, Wright has never been a very good third baseman. But neither was Chipper Jones. And the Fan mentions Jones because Wright's career is sort of the second coming of Chipper Jones. Don't believe that? Well look at the following War Chart from (click on the image to make it larger and then click Return to get back here):

As you can see, up until this season, Wright has had a similar WAR path to Chipper's career. And most people wouldn't argue that Jones has had a Hall of Fame career. In fact, Wright's path was higher than Jones until the last couple of seasons when he has leveled off.  Wright has a career slash line of .302/.382/.512. That's pretty darn good. A few years back, when the Mets were contending for NL East titles (still think Willie Randolph stunk as a manager?), Wright was in the thick of it all, producing big numbers that helped propel the Mets. Now that the Mets have been terrible and Wright's numbers are slightly below where he was before Citi Field, Wright has become irrelevant too. And remember, Shea Stadium wasn't exactly a hitter's paradise either.

So now, when all you ever hear about David Wright is about whether or not he'll be traded, most would assume that would be the best thing for the Mets. This author thinks that would be the best thing for David Wright. Unfortunately, one of those rumors has him going to Detroit, another team that plays in a cavern. Wouldn't it be nice for Wright if he could be like Adrian Gonzalez and go to a park that is either neutral for hitters or better? Wouldn't it be good for Wright to get away from a Mets situation that has been more about off field drama rather than on field heroics? Yeah, it would.

Time will tell if David Wright can be the kind of player he was before 2009. A back injury is a bit frightening. And it's pretty safe to assume that the Mets will trade him. They have little use for highly paid stars when they can't field a competitive team and having fiscal problems. The difficulty with saying so is that Wright is relatively cheap and under team control until 2013 (2012 if he is traded).  Wright was paid $10 million last season and produced a season that was worth (according to Fangraphs) $15.9 million. Up until this season, he's been a steal for the Mets. But cutting all payroll is a goal for the Mets and a trade make sense under such dynamics. For Wright's sake, that would be a good thing.

David Wright has been a star with a career path similar to Chipper Jones. It's a shame that he has become so lost among talk of the top players in the league. Once a part of the debate of who was the best third baseman in New York, Wright isn't even mentioned compared to anyone. He is forgotten. Let's hope that he becomes found again, even if that means for another team.

Update***  While any arguments concerning a post are good because thought is never a bad thing. There are some quotes out there that David Wright was called a "superstar" in this post. He was not. He was called a star. Semantics. One other thing to note. Though there is much concern about where Wright goes from here with the regression we've seen, according to Fangraphs, he's the second leading third baseman since 2007 according to WAR. Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria  have played 85 and 198 less games respectively over the period though.

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