For reasons that should be fairly obvious, this post will be somewhat different from previous installments of the Looking Back, Looking Forward series. Each of those, to varying extents, focused on a position that was in some way problematic for the Mets in 2007 and attempted to identify possible changes that could lead to an improvement in 2008. This one, however, will be more like the parent-teacher conference for the student at the head of the class.
A Look Back
One of the more remarkable aspects of Wright's offensive performance in 2007 (besides stealing 34 bases while only being caught 5 times, ranking 5th in the majors in VORP, and getting at least one hit in each of the now-infamous final 17 games of the year) was how well he hit at home (.335/.435/.586, to be exact). What makes that so remarkable is that Shea Stadium is a tough park for all hitters, but is especially unkind to right-handed power hitters (given that it's a symmetrical ballpark, I imagine that it's the wind patterns in the area that make it more difficult for righties than lefties). Because Wright is not strictly a pull hitter but instead has power to all fields, he is able to succeed in an environment where right-handed sluggers generally hit lots of towering fly balls just shy of the warning track in left field.
As for his defense, Wright may not be the absolute best-fielding 3rd baseman in the National League, but the outcry over his Gold Glove was more than a bit over-the-top. Wright was 5th among NL 3rd basemen in Revised Zone Rating and led all 3rd basemen with 88 Out-Of-Zone plays (plays made in areas of the field that are "supposed" to be covered by a different player, which are exactly the sort of highlight-reel plays that probably carried extra weight in the eyes of the managers and coaches who vote on the Gold Gloves). He was also 5th among major league 3rd basemen in David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range. Wright clearly has above-average range at 3rd base and makes a lot of spectacular plays that would not be expected of an ordinary 3rd baseman. So why is it that when
Shea Stadium, a warm summer evening, 2007.
Opposing Batter: *Hits routine ground ball towards 3rd base*
David Wright: *Picks up baseball, has all the time in the world*
Fans Watching on TV: *cringe in anticipation of what they know is about to happen*
David Wright: *Throws baseball*
Fans Seated Near 1st Base: *Duck, put up their gloves*
Baseball: *Sails through air, nearly collides with cameraman, rolls to a stop in foul territory*
Carlos Delgado: *Stands there as though he were a statue permanently attached to the 1st-base bag*
Opposing Batter: *Scampers towards 2nd base*
Fans (groaning): I knew that was going to happen!
Yeah, David Wright occasionally has issues with throwing accuracy, especially on the routine, piece-of-cake sort of plays. Even with those excruciatingly predictable throwing errors, though, he's still an above-average fielder at his position because of all the plays he does make, including those considerably more difficult than the ones he has trouble with.
A Look Forward
Wright's 2007 performance wasn't due to a freakishly high BABIP or some other indicator that screams "fluke" ; it was a 24-year-old star improving on his already excellent level of play. Given that he's at an age where he's still capable of further improvement and his biggest weakness is that every so often he makes a bad throw on a routine grounder, Wright can be counted on to give the Mets the sort of production that many teams would kill (or at least fork over half their farm system) for. In a winter where a bunch of teams are frantically trying to add a middle-of-the-order bat and/or upgrade at 3rd base, isn't it nice to know that the Mets have Wright signed long-term for a reasonable amount of money?