Evaluating David Wright With Stats

An article by posted on November 25, 2009

Yesterday, a heated yet spirited debate occurred on the MMO Chat between myself and two readers. The key points in the “debate,” were the fact that they believed two things to be true, 

#1 David Wright had a bad season
#2 People who use stats do not know baseball. 

Now, I’ve heard both points from various people, so this shouldn’t be seen as a reply to them, so much as it’s a reply to these outlandish opinions that a small group of fans have. 

Let’s start with the second statement actually. Since the book Moneyball came out (which wasn’t written by Billy Beane, even though people who haven’t read it like to say that.) there has been a war between baseball fans. That war has pit Statistical Analysis versus Gut Instinct. 

Here is where the gut instinct FAN is totally wrong in their arguments. First, they rely on this notion that because somebody uses stats to back up their point of view, that means they do not know the sports. Second, the reason stats are a vital part of baseball evaluating is because if you use the correct ones, they do not lie. 

An everyday fan remembers select at bats, or select moments and that is how they evaluate a player. There is not a General Manager in the sport that does that. You show me a GM that refers to specific games when deciding if he wants a player based on talent, and I’ll show you a GM that can’t get a job in Pittsburgh. 

Statistical Analysis has changed the entire game of baseball, like it or not. According to a recent Buster Olney article, almost all teams are relying on hired statistical analysts to evaluate talent, especially within the free agent market. 

When the great debaters try to tell somebody that stats don’t matter, what they do not understand is they themselves are using stats to justify their argument. Stats matter because they tell the ENTIRE story of a player, not just a chapter. What fans need to do is learn how to read stats. Learn that OPS is not a silly stat, and it’s no coincidence the players who just were named MVP’s were #1/#2 in OPS. That’s not an accident. 

There was a quote in Joe Torre’s book that I will likely mis-quote because I don’t have it in front of me. However, when it referred to the new age of statistical analysts, it said. When you are planning to invest money into the stock market, would you rather go with the guy who has a gut feeling about a stock; or would you rather go with the guy who shows you statistics. Those statistics show your previous years performance or lack thereof. Who are you going to invest your $ with? 

This brings me to David Wright. The statement was said that David Wright had a “crappy season.” Also, that David Wright is not clutch. Now, first of all, who was that guy who plays in New York who for years people said he wasn’t clutch? Oh right, it was Alex Rodriguez. Remind me again how he did this post-season? 

The term “clutch,” really only applies to a select number of players in the sport. A winning player plays in 162 games before he can play in the post-season. What David Wright is awful at lately is hitting with runners in scoring position and 2 outs. That is a perfectly legitimate argument. Granted, the only way to prove it is to use stats, but hey we’ll let that slide. 

To say David Wright had a bad 2009 season is more evidence of a negative fan base than a statement of his season. David Wright had a better 2009 season than almost every 3B in the National League. You can get on him because he didn’t hit “homeruns”, but he still performed at a higher level than most others at his position. Let’s not forget, David Wright was hitting in front of and behind AAA talent in most cases. 

You can’t argue with this stat if you’re being fair. Only two 3B’s in the entire sport got on base more than David Wright. Wright was on base 39% of the time. Those other two were Alex Rodriguez, and Chone Figgins. Then, of those three, Wright out slugged Figgins, and hit for a better average. 

David Wright didn’t have a good season because all you remember is a 2 out at bat with a runner on third in which he failed. You the fan, casually forget about the over .300 average when runners are in scoring position. 

There is no doubt, absolutely no doubt that David Wright needs to improve on his ability to produce runs when he has two strikes against him, or when he has runners in scoring position and two outs. I’m not denying that. What I am saying is, that isn’t the entire season. There are 20+ teams in the sport that would gladly take David Wright’s 2009 season over their third baseman’s 2009 season. 

Currently, in the sport, there are only two third basemen that I would rather have playing the hot corner over David Wright based on talent. Those would be Alex Rodriguez, and Evan Longoria. After that, you can toss Michael Young, and Ryan Zimmerman in a hat with David Wright, and you’d get roughly the same performance. (Pablo Sandoval had an amazing season, but let me just see how he does in his second full year first.) 

The final point to make is that David Wright is turning 27 years old in a month. He plays one of the most important defensive positions in the entire game, and he’s near the head of the class at that position. The guy has about a three year window before you can seriously tell me he is a flawed player, or he is not “clutch.” He’s just entering the prime of his career by age standards, and what he’s done already far surpasses what most players his age can and have done. He’s not going anywhere, so you might as well start liking him and get off his back, or pick another team.

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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