>Welcome back to day 3 of David Wright Week. On Monday, I took a look at some other historical blackouts. On Tuesday, I examined the rising quality of the pitchers David was facing. Today, let’s take a look at the most obvious change between 2008 and 2009: where the Mets played their home games.
Here’s where David Wright and the Mets played their home games in 2008:
And here’s where they played their home games in 2009:
Or at least how it might have looked to David. Then again, while Wright hit just 5 home runs at Citi Field, he also only hit 5 on the road – and the Mets as a team hit 49 home runs at home and 46 on the road while their pitchers surrendered 81 homers on at home to just 77 on the road. So Citi Field’s not actually the Grand Canyon, right?
Well no, it’s probably not for most batters – especially not for Chase Utley – but Mr. Wright is not most batters. In 2008, David hit a majority of his home runs via driving the ball into the left-center gap – look at the location of his 2007 HR’s and then his 2008 home runs via Hit Tracker:
He went from all fields power to gap (singular) power. The strategy of driving the ball into the left field alley worked for David in Shea Stadium, which wasn’t particularly deep where he localized his power – 371 feet with nice, normal 8-foot-high blue walls. He hit 21 of his 33 home runs at home, and by my own count, it looks like 15 of those homers went over that power alley area in Shea. In addition to a new strategy, David was also lucky in 2008. Hit Tracker labeled 5 of his 2008 home runs as “lucky”, and four more as “just enough.” So the 33 home run outburst was probably a bit fluky – David is probably closer to a high 20’s home run guy than a 30+ slugger.
That is, David was a high 20’s home run hitter before the Mets built a wacky stadium seemingly designed for the singular purpose of crushing their young superstar third baseman’s power.* Citi Field’s “power alley” in left, where Wright’s power was localized in 2008, is listed at 378 feet, which is only 7 feet more than at Shea – and, oh yeah, the walls are twice as high. Hit Tracker’s Greg Rybarczyk estimates that every additional foot of wall height is the same as moving the fence back .86 feet, making the “actual” distance closer to 13 feet farther back – about the width of a warning track. So now those 15 home runs David hit over the power alley in Shea need to travel an addition 13 feet to make it out in his new home. Citi Field is not built well for Wright – Rybarczyk wrote an article in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010 detailing how it affected Wright in 2009. However, 2009 was an odd year overall for David – absurdly high BABIP, lots of strikeouts, the supermassive helmet episode – so let’s try to see how David would have done in a more normal year, like 2008.
*Fenway has a monstrous wall because it was squeezed into a city block, the Polo Grounds had a 483 foot fence in center because it was really a football field, Yankee Stadium – the original one, not that gilded “Caesar’s Palace: The Bronx” thing – was designed for Babe Ruth. There were reasons behind the eccentricities. And then you have Citi Field, which has 16 foot high fences, a Mo’s Zone, and an unnecessary overhanging Subway** ad because . . .
**However, the Subway add on the Pepsi Porch is one of the more brilliant ad placements in modern history – every time a ball hits the yellow sign, it is inevitably reviewed by the umpires meaning that the home run and the Subway sign is replayed endlessly on TV. Genius work by Subway’s advertising department – though at other times I wonder about that group. It is almost as if one of Subway’s company objectives is to stick at least two New York sports figures that cannot act in all of their commercials. Off the top of my head, there are uncomfortable ads featuring Johan Santana and CC Sabathia, Willie Randolph and Joe Torre, and Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan. Then again, I do feel schadenfreude when I see Ryan Howard in equally terrible Subway commercials, specifically the one where he reads some sort of love poem about sandwiches. If that ad is aimed at Mets fans . . . again, genius.
Anyways, to better illustrate how Citi Field should affect David Wright in a normal year, I present to you, “expertly” crafted in mostly in MS Paint, the following chart, which has:
A.) Shea Stadium in light green,
B.) Citi Field in black – the dotted line is the Pepsi Porch
C.) The “actual” Citi Field in grey, i.e. adjusted for the heights of the walls
D.) David Wright’s 2008 home runs.
E.) The true location of the Grand Canyon.
Keep in mind that the outlines of Citi and Shea are from Hit Tracker – so those are basically accurate – but I estimated the grey lines myself, which are in no way accurate, just approximations. This is just to give a basic idea about what Citi would do to David Wright in a less weird year:
It looks to me like 6 home runs definitely don’t make it out of Citi, and 6 more are maybes because of fence height – but then again all those “home” runs weren’t hit at home, despite the nomenclature. Since 2/3 of David’s 2008 home runs were hit at Shea, let’s guess that 4 of the 6 “definitely nots” were hit at home, and take those 4 away. Then, let’s again guess the 4 of the 6 “maybes” were hit at home and that half of those 4 don’t make it out of Citi Field – so we’re subtracting 2 “maybes”. That gives us an estimated total of 6 home runs David would have lost in 2008 had he played in Citi Field. Remember though, these are all just my own loose estimations.
So maybe this explains where 6 home runs went from 2008 to 2009 – and the disappearance of an additional 7ish home runs was explained by the rising quality of starting pitching David was facing. David also missed time after getting drilled in the head – so we’ll give him another 2 home runs due to the missed time and after-effects of the concussion
. Now that the disappearance of 15 or so home runs were (sort of) explained away, we’re only left looking for the location of 8 or so more – which really isn’t that many. Carlos Beltran saw his home run total drop from 41 to 33 between 2006 and 2007 and no one cried foul or spent an excessive amount of time alone in their mother’s basement trying to figure out why.
To recap, some of David’s power disappeared because of Citi Field (about 6 HR), some because he missed two weeks (2), and some went MIA because of the improved opposing pitching (7), leaving us with a drop of just 8 home runs. The disappearance of 8 home runs is much less disturbing than the disappearance of 23. David Wright’s drop was especially dramatic because it was created by an imperfect storm of a down year, the improved quality of the opposition, global warming, witchcraft, the economy, “The Phantom Menace”, and a unfriendly new ballpark. When you take into account all those factors, the drop becomes less precipitous.
Then again, the power outage is just part of the strange saga that was Wright’s 2009. David also struggled on the other side of the ball, having the worst defensive season of his career. I’ll take a look at that tomorrow, as David Wright week continues – same bat time, same bat channel.
David Wright Week: It’s like Shark Week, only with substantially more blood. Oh, there will be blood.* There will be blood.
*Bat-spray shark repellent not required for David Wright week.