>Welcome to David Wright week:
If David Wright’s 2007 season is imagined as “Led Zeppelin I” (i.e. awesome – .420 wOBA, 149 OPS+) and his 2008 as “Led Zeppelin II” (a continuation of the awesome – .397 wOBA, 141 OPS+), then his 2009 season becomes “Led Zeppelin III” – still good and much better than most efforts by others (.368 wOBA, 123 OPS+) – but not on the same level as its predecessors.* Most of this drop off is accounted for by the power outage. You probably already noticed that the Wright household forgot to pay its electric bill in 2009: 30 HR in 2007, 33 HR in 2008, and then just 10 in 2009. We’ll call this drops like this a “blackout.”
*See: Wright, David, 2009, slugging percentage and “Hats Off to Roy Harper”, the absolute worst Led Zeppelin song. It’s a shame, because Zeppelin III has some of their best and most beautiful songs – “Tangerine” and “That’s the Way” might be the best nine minutes on a Zeppelin album – but the album has got too much filler and otherwise dull songs.
David Wright is not the only player to have a ever have blackout, but he may be the youngest and his may be the worst – a 1.21 gigawatt outage, if you will. Let’s take a look at other “blackouts” and see whether or not the player’s power returned, which should provide some insight into what to expect from David in 2010.
I combed through roughly 24,601 or so Baseball Reference pages looking for batters matching these criteria:
A.) two seasons of at least 25 home runs followed by a noticeable drop in power.
B.) the power drop wasn’t due to injury or age – at least 130~ games play and at least three more seasons after the outage.
C.) similarity to Wright – high average, high on-base guys with power who maintained their other abilities while losing only the home runs.
After finding 11 seasons similar to Wright’s, I discovered four things:
1. David Wright’s power outage is probably the worst ever, and his is especially odd because of his youth.
2. Fellow power outage victim Earl Averill was born in Snohomish, Washington and was nicknamed “The Earl of Snohomish.”
3. There actually exists a place called Snohomish, which bills itself as “The Antiques Capitol of the Northwest.”*
4. A player’s power usually comes back, but not always, and often not at the same level.
*You may be asking yourself why Snohomish choose to call themselves “The Antiques Capitol of the Northwest”, and not the capitol of the entire country, or even better, the whole world. Well, it turns out that Adamstown, Pennsylvania has already grabbed the title of “Antiques Capitol of the USA”, though it looks like Cameron, North Carolina is attempting to one-up them by shooting for the title of “Antiques Capitol of the World” – which only makes me think of the scene in “Elf” when Will Ferrell congratulates the coffee shop for having “The World’s Best Cup of Coffee.” I promise that this is the most I will ever write about antiques – though feel free to insert your own Julio Franco joke here.
Below are the 11 players I found with a home run drops similar to David Wright’s. I listed the player’s at-bats per home run and their OPS+ for the two seasons before the blackout, during the blackout, and the two seasons post-blackout. Here are the guys who the lights went out on (if you have a bit of trouble reading the chart, click to make it bigger):
The good news is that 7 of the 11 players are already in the Hall of Fame or virtual locks, and the rest were All-Stars, so Mr. Wright is in good company. As you can see, some player’s power returned to its previous level or higher – Bench, Thomas, and Martinez – but some continued to decline – the 34-year-old Cooper rebounded for his next season but fell apart in his final two, while Mattingly’s back problems contributed to his poor 1990 season. The remainder’s power bounced back somewhat in the following seasons, but failed to return to the previous high. However, that may have more to do with the player’s ages than anything else; the average age of a player having a blackout season comes in at a tad over 30. The ages for the following two seasons – 31 and 32 – are right around when a player would normally begin to decline anyway. David Wright being younger than the others is odd, but I think his age gives him a better shot at regaining his former stroke. Then again, Mayberry and Mattingly were both young and never fully recovered, though Mattingly’s drop was likely due to the injuries. Hopefully Wright will take the Johnny Bench route and not the John Mayberry way.
“The Earl of Snohomish’s” blackout is the one most similar to Wright’s – the at-bats per home run match up perfectly, and the OPS+ are nearly identical, though Averill was five years older than Wright when his blackout occurred. Averill’s home run power did fully return in 1934, but he then began a slow decline because of age and injuries. Hopefully Wright’s age and health will help him avoid a similar decline – Averill’s returning power is a good omen for David.
As for what to expect from Wright in 2010 – and remember, this is David Wright week, so I’ll have more about the possible causes for the outage and what to expect in the coming days – I would guess, based only on this set of players, that David Wright’s power is going to return. However, it should be closer to the 24-26 HR range than the 33 he hit in 2008. The 10 home runs was probably flukey, but then again the 33 probably was as well. The composite AB/HR of the post blackout seasons for all players is 24 AB/HR, which works out to around 26 home runs over a full season for Wright. While Wright’s power was lower and his blackout more drastic than the rest of the group, he’s young and healthy so his power should rise to similar levels.
But of course, this is just part of the story – it tells us what to expect post-blackout, but I want to look for the causes of the outage. Check back for how David Wright’s power is affected by a pitcher’s velocity, the effects of Citi Field, the horror of Subway commercials, and much more.
David Wright Week: It’s like Shark Week, only with more blood.