I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Mets’ third baseman David Wright is having kind of an odd year. Much of his numbers are more than solid – most notably the .333 AVG (6th in NL) and the .432 OBP (also 6th). But with 213 plate appearances in the books this year, Wright is stuck on 3 HRs and is on pace for only 10 dingers for the season. And that’s not the odd part. The oddity is that the guy has been stuck on 3 HRs for nearly a month and is yet slugging .483. That’s a pretty rare disparity between low HR total and high slugging.
To get a sense of how rare this would be if Wright maintained this rate (he probably won’t, but bear with me), I checked to see when’s the last time anyone has slugged so high while hitting less than or equal to 10 homers (minimum 600 PAs). The answer? In 1988, Wade Boggs slugged .490 with five measly HRs. In fact, Boggs (also did this in 1986 and 1983), Tony Gwynn (1987) and Willie McGee (1985) are the only three hitters to qualify under the criteria since the 1961 expansion.
What’s more, both Boggs and Gwynn were more reliant on their batting averages to sustain their slugging percentages than Wright is right now. The Mets’ golden boy has a .150 ISOP (isolated power = slugging % – batting average), meaning that he is getting more extra base hits than Boggs or Gwynn did in their respective qualifying seasons.
But Wright’s performance this year has thus far been a near mirror-image to Willie McGee’s 1985, when the Cardinals center fielder (and one of the most awkward runners I have ever seen in my life) led the league with a .353 batting average to go along with a .503 slugging (equaling Wright’s .150 ISOP) and 10 home runs, earning Willie his first and only MVP Award.
And if that’s not odd enough, Wright is on pace to steal 40 bases – far more than the 21.5 SBs he has averaged since 2005 – which again is reminiscent of McGee’s ’85 when he stole 56 bases (a good deal more than he had ever or would ever swipe again).
However, like I said, it’s a pretty safe bet that Wright won’t be joining the ranks of those stars of the 1980s because of one of two reasons (or both):
- David currently has a ludicrously high .460 BABiP which leads all of MLB. A return towards his career BABiP of .348 will surely drop his batting average considerably (and along with it, his slugging).
- He’s got more power than this. Sure, Citi Field is looking to be a major pitcher’s park. But that alone doesn’t explain everything as only one of Wright’s three homers has been hit on the road. And seeing as his GB/FB ratio and infield fly % are still in line with his career patterns, there’s really no reason to believe (yet, anyway) that something is truly amiss. It’s still a pretty safe bet to claim that Wright’s home run totals – especially on the road – are bound to improve quite a bit. We had a similar situation two years ago and Wright still finished with 30 HRs.
So I’m afraid that this statistical anomaly won’t last very long. Either David’s slugging is going to come down or his HRs are going to return. But I like abnormalities like this – especially when it gives me a chance to think about Willie McGee.