Now that I'm situated in my new place in California, and the internet is finally (and mercifully) hooked up, it looks like it's time to take a look at David Wright again. He is an all-star on the field and he's an all-star in our hearts and he's accrued the fifth-best WAR among position players to date. At the same time, thee hand-wringing has continued, and his strikeout rate is still significantly worse than it has been in the past.
We're past the thresholds at which strikeout and walk rates become significant, so it's worth noting that he's whiffing at the eighth-worst strikeout rate among qualified batters. Can we figure out why? There's been a lot of work at this, of course, and we may find the same things here, but let's take a look at his approach with heat maps. Jeremy Greenhouse at Baseball Analysts was kind enough to break down Wright's hitting zones for us, and if you haven't checked out his work, it is consistently excellent and deserves accolades. The colors indicate run values, so closer to red the better, and the contours show Wright's swing tendencies. He swings at 75% of pitches within the smaller circle, and 50% within the larger one, in other words.
Unfortunately, these charts are worrisome.
Let's tackle the run values first. The good news is that Wright is spanking the pitches he should be spanking right now. Look at those nice run values in the middle of the plate for 2010. However, it's not all good news. In 2007-2008, he had a slight hole away in the zone, and was either around zero or better everywhere else. Then that hole grew and worsened last year. He slightly mitigated the severity of the hole this year, but it's moved and it's right were we might have thought it was. We've seen Wright flail at the outside pitch, and watch outside strikes into the mitt, and there it is, in stark blue and baby blue.
On to the swing contours. With his increase in strikeout rate, it's not at all suprising to see that he's showing the largest swing contours of his career. His reach rate (29.5%) is way above his career reach rate (21%), and here we have it represented visually. It's nice to see that he's still swinging at the best part of the plate, and that his hole has moved further away from his 75% swing contour, but it's still a problem. He's swinging 50% of the time at low-and-away pitches, the worst part of the zone for him.
Sometimes it's nice to put pictures to numbers and thoughts. We've known that he's having some issues on the outside of the plate, and the pretty colors hammer that point home. Wright is having a good year, but in order to return to the great promise of yore, he needs to swing a little bit less often on pitches on the outside corner, because he's definitely developed a hole out there.