Thursday, January 26, 2012

David Wright 2012

With the fences moving in at Citi Field next year, everyone wants to know if David Wright is going to return to his days as a 30+ HR hitter in 2012 and beyond.

Last October, Eno Saris posted this spray chart at Amazing Avenue. This overlay of Wright's 2011 batted balls with the proposed new dimensions of Citi Field wasn't conclusive (as Saris pointed out), but if I had to guess, I'd say that Wright is somewhat likely to see a moderate power boost at home. Predicting exactly how many home runs this will translate into is a fool's errand, but I could see a 3-5 home run increase if all other things were equal.

However, it's somewhat misleading to call last year the result of a power outage. If Wright had put up the same number of plate appearances in 2011 that he did in 2008, he would have hit 23 home runs. Wright's career high was 33 in 2008. A 10 home run dip isn't a desirable outcome, but it's not what I would describe as an erosion of Wright's power rate.

It is also important to know that Wright isn't a masher on the road and a Punch and Judy at home. Wright's home/road HR splits over the last three years are relatively close, and his slugging percentages are even closer. While Citi Field may have been hurting Wright somewhat, a .027 SLG differential isn't what I'd call significant.

In addition to his health, my greater concern with Wright's potential future as an elite player is his decline in his line drive rates the last two seasons.

David Wright's Line Drive Rates: 2007-2001
2007:  23.2%
2008:  25.6%
2009:  25.7%
2010:  18.9%
2011:  18.0%

Wright put up a .349 BABIP between 2005-2009. Since 2010, he has put up a .322 BABIP. That might not sound like much of a difference, but the 2010 BABIP of .335 is less in line with the line drive rate than 2011's .302 rate. Wright might improve over that .254 batting average from last year, but I also suspect the .300 batting averages from days past might be gone.

To me, "will Citi Field's new dimensions increase Wright's power?" is the wrong question to ask. A more appropriate question is "will David Wright ever be an elite player again?" While it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility, the trend lines the last three years are pointing down, and most of it can't be blamed on the park. Wright is still going to be one of the top fantasy third basemen in the National League in 2012, but I'm not going past $30 for him this year.

1 comment:

zucchiniboy said...

Keeper question: I've got Starlin Castro at $10 in my NL-only league, and saw that he earned close to $30 last year. His contract is up this year, and I can extend him for $5 a year. I know SS is a little thin, so I was wondering your thoughts--do I maximize profit for this year and just keep him at $10, or do some extending?