Pedro Martinez once told me one of his greatest weapons as a pitcher is the fear he instilled in the batter’s mind about being hit.
“If the batter is afraid of being hit, then I can pitch him any way I want,’’ Martinez said.
That’s the way it seems these days for David Wright even though he will never admit it. That’s all right, because what the mouth won’t say body language does, and there have been numerous times when Wright bails out.
We see him more turning away from the inside fastball rather than turning on it and ripping it to left. Once a pitcher knows he has the inside half of the plate, there’s no reason to go to the outside.
The Matt Cain beaning last season has had a residual effect of Wright, and it mostly is mental, which leads to bad physical habits.
I’ve seen Wright pull off pitches he used to hammer, and I see him get too anxious when he does get a ball on the outside half and middle. His swing is long with a noticeable uppercut.
Statistically, Wright has made enough contact to be on a pace to hit 32 homers and drive in 105 runs. He’s also on pace to strike out 223 times and hit for a .262, some 43 points below his career average.
Those aren’t the results Wright is seeking.
“If you don’t see the results a lot, you start pressing a little bit,’’ Wright said last night after his three strikeout game in Atlanta. “It’s tough when somebody is out there playing as poorly as I am right now, costing us both offensively and defensively.’’
Wright was having an off-year in 2009 even before the beaning, which some of it being written off as adjusting to the new stadium and him being on an island in the line-up. There was no Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado or Jose Reyes for much of this year. There’s no Beltran this year, Jason Bay has done nothing to protect Wright and Reyes hasn’t been on his game. The situations are very similar, as are the results.
Wright called baseball a “humbling” game and right now the man is humbled.
It all boils down to this, that regardless of the psychological and statistical theories, if Wright is the player the Mets and he believes himself to be, things have to dramatically change. These reasons, or excuses, for him not hitting must be pushed aside.
It could start with something small, like hitting a sacrifice fly instead of striking out.
Here’s tonight’s line-up”
Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
Angel Pagan, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Henry Blanco, C
RA Dickey, RP