David Wright and his lack of power

This season marks David Wright‘s 11th as a Major League Baseball player, all with the New York Mets. During his first ten years, the slugging third baseman hit a total of 222 home runs, or about 22 per season. Since 2004, his inaugural season, Wright ranks 23rd in home runs overall and fifth among third basemen. Those are pretty good power numbers for anyone, but especially for a third baseman. But, unfortunately for Wright, his power has vanished thus far in 2014.

Through 65 games and 295 plate appearances, Wright has managed to hit just four home runs, with a slugging percentage of .368 (a career low). His isolated power is an abysmal .097 while his OPS (.697) is also a career low. And not only are his power numbers down, both his batting average (.271) and overall offensive game have taken a dive. According to the statistic wOBA (weighted on-base average), which is the best metric we have to determine a hitter’s offensive value, Wright is a replacement level type player this season. His wOBA sits at .307 — 124th in baseball. To put this in perspective for you non-sabermetric people out there, Wright’s wOBA since 2010 is as follows: .366, .338, .376, .391. His offensive production is nowhere near where it has been throughout his career.

So what’s happened to the seven-time All Star? It can’t be his age as he’s only 31. As far as I know, he’s not dealing with any lingering injury as he’s appeared in every game this season. If it’s just a slump, it’s a mighty long one. The problem that I’m seeing from Wright is his eye at the plate, or lack thereof.

Wright is seeing 49.3% of pitches thrown to him land inside the strike zone. That would be the highest strike rate Wright has witnessed since 2006. However, he’s swinging at pitches in the zone at a career-low rate. So, he’s being thrown more strikes but is swinging less, and not making enough contact when he actually does swing. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

It’s not like he’s swinging at pitches outside of the zone (his outside of the zone swing percentage is right around his career average); he’s just having a hard time with pitches inside the strike zone, which is extremely rare for a hitter of his caliber. And because he’s not seeing the zone as well has he has in the past his offensive numbers, particularly his home runs, have dropped.

Like most power hitters, Wright has hit the majority of his home runs against the fastball, and even though he’s still batting .319 against the heat, he has yet to hit a home run against it, despite seeing 336 of them. His fastball runs above average (wFB) is a terrible -3.0. He hasn’t had a wFB below 10 since his rookie season and even then he managed a 7.4 wFB. And, as you may have guessed since he’s struggling with fastballs, he’s having a hard time with every other pitch as well. The only pitch he has mastered this season is the changeup.

Right now, Wright isn’t making the Mets any better, and since we’re talking about the Mets, that’s saying a lot. We all know Wright is better than his current performace, and odds are that he will rediscover his power stroke at some point. But if his eye at the plate continues to fail him, it could be a long season for the third baseman.