(Vitamin Water’s spokesmodel, left, seeks hitting advice from a member of the New York Juggernaut)
Apologies to the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman, who not only deserves better than the terrible headline above, but also deserves credit for point out that despite hitting just .263 with zero HR’s in ’07, the Mets’ David Wright is “drawing his walks, fouling off tough pitches in key at-bats, and hasn’t fallen into the habits of the truly afflicted hitter, like changing his stance every time he comes up to the plate or flailing at pitches he can’t possibly hit in an attempt to see if a break in routine will bring new results.”
The premise that Wright is in some sort of extended slump dating back to last year is, to begin with, just not true. Wright may have only hit six home runs in the second half last year, but his overall batting line was .305 BA/.375 OBA/.469 SLG, which is very good, and his batting line was only that low because he had a poor August, in which he hit .245/.313/.392. Wright may not have been hitting home runs, but he has a broad array of offensive strengths, and he was hitting for average, cracking doubles, drawing walks, and even running the bases well, stealing nine bags in 11 attempts. He is not mired in some sort of four-month slump dating back to last year. The reality is that he just didn’t hit many home runs in the second half last year, and he’s in a slump to open this year ” two separate phenomena.Even granting this, it’s unusual for a hitter with his power to go this long without a home run, one might reason, and something must therefore be wrong. This makes enough sense, but it’s completely untrue. At the end of the Mets’ game yesterday, Wright stood in the fine company of Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano, both of whom have much more home run power than he does, and neither of whom has knocked one out of the park. Derrek Lee got his first yesterday. Wright may not even be the best young third baseman in his own division to have opened the year short on power” Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman had a big zero next to his name on the scoreboard for this year’s first 18 games.
If that doesn’t ease your mind at all, consider that Travis Hafner and David Ortiz, arguably the two best pure power hitters in baseball over the last few years, have each endured similar season-opening slumps recently. Hafner went 19 games without a bomb in 2005, and Ortiz went 24 without one in 2003; each ended up ranking third in his league in slugging average that year. And if these examples still don’t allay your fears, consider this. I looked at every seasonopening streak of at least 19 games without a home run that took place this decade, using www.baseball-reference.com’sexcellent data-slicing tools and found not one example of a previously well-regarded power hitter who went through such a streak and subsequently proved to have simply lost his power stroke.
None of this means that Wright will simply snap out of it, of course. He may have been affected by a mysterious, power-sapping virus let loose by Braves fans working at Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The big contract he signed last year may have robbed him of his desire. Who knows? Precedent, though, suggests that he’s simply cold, as happens to all ballplayers, and that given enough time his skills and talents will assert themselves and all will be well.
So is Mike Pelfrey in over his head? Maybe. But why send him back to the minors now? There’s nothing for Pelfrey to be gained by going back to New Orleans and dominating AAA hitters and having people wonder if he’s just a quadruple A pitcher. No, let him learn and take his lumps up in the majors. Besides, who else can come up? Chan Ho Park and his 7.00 ERA while facing minor league hitters? Hardly.
Pelfrey will be fine. I don’t know when, but under the tutelage and possible butt kicking of Rick Peterson, he’ll be fine. Until then, we may have to see Pelfrey play Charlie Brown for a little while until he learns how to spot his fast ball. Rick Peterson would probably say that Pelfrey is like a chicken that comes out of the oven all crispy on the outside so you think it’s done, but then you slice it open and it’s all pink and cold in the middle. Pelfrey would be better served to broil up in the majors instead of going down to the microwave oven known as AAA for a quick fix.