Even before David Wright signed the eight-year, $138 million extension that should keep him in Queens through 2020, he had already established himself as the most accomplished non-pitcher in Mets history, holding the team records for hits, walks, runs, doubles, RBIs, total bases and wins above replacement.
What’s getting far less attention is that Wright is currently in the midst of what might be the best season by a position player the club has ever seen, and it’s time we recognize it.
There are two good reasons why Wright’s season is flying under the radar, the first of which is that the team is mediocre. It’s a lot harder to get excited about a player having a career year when his team’s best realistic finish is third place.
But the biggest reason Wright’s not getting the attention he deserves is the decline in run scoring across the National League since he debuted. As a result, his raw numbers, such as batting average and slugging, are down relative to his early peak from 2006 through 2008, but his performance relative to the rest of the league is better.
For example, in 2007, Wright had a .325/.416/.546 line with 30 homers and 34 steals in what was previously the best season of his career. That was good enough for a 149 OPS+, a metric which scales a player’s OPS relative to league average and accounts for ballpark factors (100 is average). But in 2007, National League teams scored 4.71 runs per game.
This year, NL squads are averaging 4.09 runs per contest, which as you math majors can surely tell is 0.62 fewer runs per game than six years ago. That’s a huge difference, one that must alter our perception of what an elite performance really is.
So even though Wright’s raw line this season is .308/.403/.517, his OPS+ is 159, which reflects the change in run scoring across the league since 2007 -- not to mention a change in Wright’s home park -- and represents a career high.
Wright is also getting a boost from base-stealing, which was a strength earlier in his career but had regressed in recent years -- he was a wretched 15-for-25 in 2012. This year he is 14-for-16, which is an 87.5 percent conversion rate.
Throw in the fact that Wright has played a steady third base, and he has produced 5.0 wins above replacement, which would put him on pace for 9.2 WAR and make him the first non-pitcher in club history to crack the 9-WAR threshold and break the single-season club record set by (wait for it) ... David Wright, in 2007 (8.3 WAR).
There are two caveats I should throw out here. The first of which is that WAR is subject to the vagaries of defensive metrics and is an inexact science. Therefore, it is not the be-all, end-all when settling such debates, and you could make a case for Howard Johnson’s 1989 campaign, Darryl Strawberry two years before that, or Carlos Beltran’s incredible 2006.
The second disclaimer is that Wright has set a blistering pace thus far this season, and it will be no easy feat for him to keep it up. As it is, he has already exceeded his WAR totals for the '09, '10 and '11 seasons.
But the bottom line is this: Wright is having a season for the ages, one that is in the conversation for the best in franchise history and could help make him the first position player to wear a Mets cap in Cooperstown.
So if you need a reason to watch the Mets when it’s not Matt Harvey Day, Wright is it.