Saturday, September 12, 2009

David Wright's Power Outage May Become Historic

It has been well-documented that David Wright is going through a power outage this season. The home run dropoff cannot be solely attributed to the move from Shea Stadium to Citi Field. Out of the ten home runs hit by Wright, five have come at Citi Field and five have been hit on the road.

Last year, Wright hit 33 HR in 626 plate appearances. That home run total has dwindled by 23 this season, as Wright has accumulated a mere ten home runs in 466 plate appearances. That includes the two-homer barrage Saturday against the Phillies.

If Wright does not finish the season with more than his current home run total and reaches the 500 plate appearance plateau (which he should), he stands to make some history.

Studious Metsimus has done extensive research and found ten players who compiled seasons in which their home run totals dropped by more than 23 from one season to the next. In both of the seasons in question, each hitter registered at least 500 plate appearances. The players are listed in order by the difference in home runs from the first season to the second.

Brady Anderson: 50 HR (1996), 18 HR (1997), difference of 32 HR
Luis Gonzalez: 57 HR (2001), 28 HR (2002), difference of 29 HR
Adrian Beltre: 48 HR (2004), 19 HR (2005), difference of 29 HR
Roger Maris: 61 HR (1961), 33 HR (1962), difference of 28 HR
Davey Johnson: 43 HR (1973), 15 HR (1974), difference of 28 HR
Barry Bonds: 73 HR (2001), 46 HR (2002), difference of 27 HR
Larry Walker: 49 HR (1997), 23 HR (1998), difference of 26 HR
Hank Greenberg: 58 HR (1938), 33 HR (1939), difference of 25 HR
Andre Dawson: 49 HR (1987), 24 HR (1988), difference of 25 HR
Richard Hidalgo: 44 HR (2000), 19 HR (2001), difference of 25 HR

Out of all these players, every one of them hit at least 15 HR in both of the seasons. In my research, I could not find any player who had as many as 33 HR (like Wright had last year) in one season and then followed that up with fewer than a dozen home runs in the next season, given the 500 plate appearance minimum in both seasons.

In fact, I only found three players in major league history with at least 400 plate appearances in consecutive years who hit at least 30 HR in the first season and single digit home runs in the following season. Those players are:

Gabby Hartnett: 37 HR (1930, 578 PA), 8 HR (1931, 438 PA)
Rocky Colavito: 30 HR (1966, 614 PA), 8 HR (1967, 436 PA)
Howard Johnson: 38 HR (1991, 658 PA), 7 HR (1992, 410 PA)

The last name on that list should be familiar to Mets fans. David Wright considers Howard Johnson to be his "baseball father". If David's power outage this season continues, it may be a case of "like father, like son".

HoJo's inability to hit home runs in 1992 was not due to an injury, as is typical in those situations. However, it might be explained by his change in positions. He played his customary third base position for most of the 1991 season until he was moved to right field for the last month of the campaign. In 1992, he became the Mets' full-time centerfielder and did not perform well in the field.

Johnson did eventually suffer a season-ending wrist injury in late July, but not before he played in 100 of the first 103 games, collecting his measly total of seven home runs.

The closest comparison I could find to David Wright's 2009 season was Vinny Castilla's 2005 season. Castilla also accumulated over 500 plate appearances in 2005 after a 2004 season in which he hit 35 HR for the Colorado Rockies. Like Wright, he changed ballparks from one year to the next, moving from Coors Field in Denver to RFK Stadium in Washington. His power suffered as he went down from 35 HR in 2004 for the Rockies to 12 HR in 2005 for the Nationals. However, Castilla still managed to get to the dozen home run total that Wright has not reached.

If I did my research correctly, David Wright could become the first player to hit as many as 33 HR in one season, only to follow it up with a season of fewer than 12 HR. No player with at least 500 plate appearances in both seasons has suffered such a power outage in major league history.

David Wright will probably finish his Mets career with many of the franchise's hitting records. However, he may end up with a major league record that I'm sure he'd rather not have. Let's hope for one quick power surge before the end of the 2009 season so that he won't hold this dubious distinction.

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