The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Mets players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 2, third baseman David Wright.
Early in March, Baseball Prospectus ran the numbers and essentially called David Wright's 2009 season, as BML put it here, The Biggest Outlier in the History of Everything. To quote Eric Seidman's excellent BP piece:
No matter how I choose to slice the numbers, it is evident that Wright's season is of bizarro-world status ... what happened to him last year is unprecedented in baseball history. No other player has been as productive from a home run standpoint at such a young age, for a four-year stretch, who suddenly turned into Juan Pierre from a power perspective, while playing full seasons.
As Seidman points out — and the reason he ultimately concludes Wright will be just fine — every other aspect of Wright's game was normal: his batting average, his OBP, his doubles, his defense. It's just that 23 home runs vanished. No one is sure why, whether it was the ballpark, whether it was his brain, whether it was invisible nighthawks pecking fly balls out of the sky. It was just a crazy thing that happened that shouldn't happen again.
Wright isn't only due for an uptick in power — and remember, even though he only hit ten home runs, he still had an excellent year in 2009 — he's due for an uptick in help. He is the only Mets regular to have stayed healthy last year (and this year, apparently), so often the lineup was David Wright and Eight People You'd Rather Pitch to Than David Wright. Eventually, if not necessarily at the start of the season, the cavalry is coming.
One of the reasons some are optimistic about the Mets this season — and "thinking this year can't be nearly as bad as the last three" counts as optimism — is that there is legitimate potential for large improvements across the board. Last year might have been as bad as it will get. Jose Reyes will play more than 36 games. Carlos Beltran will play more than 81. And David Wright will hit more than ten home runs. David Wright is still young, only 27, and he spent most of the last few years as one of the best players in baseball. There is little reason to think he won't return to form this year. He is still the face of the franchise, and the Mets are extremely fortunate to have him. Someday we'll all laugh about 2009. Not right now, but, you know, someday.