David Wright off to hot start
Mets third baseman leads National League in batting average
Six weeks into the Major League season, David Wright was leading both leagues in batting with an average over .400. But the Mets third baseman says he never checks the scoreboard for updates because the numbers change all the time.
So far, the changes have all been positive for him.
Wright's sizzling start has turned heads around the league. He is locked in at the plate, putting up huge numbers through the first quarter of the Mets season. To understand his production, consider that no right-handed hitter has maintained this early-season pace since Manny Ramirez a decade ago with Boston.
Wright says the players around him are just as responsible for his success as he is.
"As a player, I can tell you that when the players in front of you and behind you in the lineup are going well, it makes my job easier," he said. "That's no secret."
Then, there is the matter of teammates looking out for each other.
"We know each other," Wright said. "Guys I played with for a few years now, we know each other's swings so well. They know what to look for in my swing, and I know what to look for in their swings. We do it all the time. We see things around the batting cage. If your swing goes bad, they'll tell you. They call things to your attention. If we see something out of whack, we let them know about it."
That has not been a problem for Wright this season. Besides his .402 batting average after 37 games, Wright is leading the Majors with a .474 on-base percentage. He had a .598 slugging percentage and had reached base in 32 of 34 games he played. His .411 batting average against right-handers also was tops in the National League.
No Met in club history has approached Wright's .408 average through May 15. The closest was Cleon Jones, who was at .390 at that point in the 1969 season and finished at .340.
Wright is very good at self-analysis.
"I know what my swing is supposed to look like," he said. "So do the other guys around here."
So people like teammate Daniel Murphy -- also off to a hot start -- manager Terry Coillins and hitting coach Dave Hudgens keep a close watch on him.
"I'll hit with the same three or four guys every day," Wright said. "They see things. Murphy's good like that with me. Terry will say, 'I've seen you for a year and a half now. I know what your swing is supposed to look like.'
"You come here every day and get your work in," Wright said. "It's a matter of repetition, duplication. That's what baseball is all about -- muscle memory. It helps when you find something you feel good with and can stay consistent with day in and day out."
Consistency is how successful seasons are crafted. Wright knows his pace will be impossible to maintain. Consider that baseball's last .400 season was authored by Ted Williams in 1941, more than seven decades ago. The closest to .400 since then was Tony Gwynn's .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season, followed by George Brett's .390 in 1980. When a hitter gets that close, a handful of hits can push him past the .400 plateau. However, that handful of hits can be difficult to come by over the long season.
Wright has become the face of the Mets franchise, the most important player in the lineup. High-profile teammates like Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes have moved on.
"He's a star," Collins said. "And this is his club."
Ask Wright about his prospects for the rest of the season and he smiles broadly.
"We have a long way to go," he said.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.