QUEENS, NY — New York Mets slugging third baseman David Wright has donated more than 50 bats to charity after deciding he had no need for them.
The three-time All Star, speaking exclusively to Fantasy Hardball: a bloop and a blast – said he would rather donate them to a good home than carry them from Major League city to city.
Clubhouse officials insist the decision was made solely by Wright, while fans across the country are speculating on his future with the team.
David Wright is currently 23/82 with 27 strikeouts to start the 2009 campaign. He’s on pace for a record 161 Ks and he is said to be embarassed by not being able to perform to his previous heights.
Wright has never whiffed more than 118 time in his big-league career, so to see him leaving his bat on his shoulder so often is strange.
Wright said: “I thought it was only [Dustin] Pedroia who couldn’t hit the high and inside fastball. But I guess not.
“I don’t really know what is the matter with me at the minute. I tried swinging at the beachball in BP on Wednesday before the Marlins game, but I was late on it and kept shanking it foul.
“Jerry Manuel told me to shorten up my stroke, to choke up a little, but then I was too early on it. I kept pulling it foul. I mean c’mon, how do you pull a 12mph beachball foul?”
He clearly doesn’t need his bat, so Fantasy Hardball found some uses for it.
He could recreate the famous NYC skyline…
Take up the oboe…
Pitchers and catchers have reported for duty, fantasy leagues across the nation are filling up quickly and expectations of October glory are being reignited in a way that only baseball enthusiasts can appreciate.
I am a sports and news journalist by trade, a Mets fan by choice and an all round baseball lover by addiction.
My fantasy draft is just three weeks away and the owners in my 12-team league have already thrown me a curveball – this year, strikeouts count against batters.
My initial reaction caught me off guard and out of control, almost like Prince Fielder bouncing head-first into second base trying to leg out a double.
In many 5×5 leagues, batters’ Ks are never an issue. You could have Ryan Howard and Mark Reynolds on the corners of your fantasy infield, or Adam Dunn and Mike Cameron lurking in your OF, without having to ever worry that the slugging foursome would get ringed up a huge 700 times a season.
You could take their 130 homer runs, pencil in their 400 rbi and be done with it.
But no more.
Even grabbing two of these this season could hurt my squad. Which leads me to my dilemma. Is Ryan Howard worth a first-round pick now?
In almost 700 mock drafts in the past week, the Phillies’ 1B is getting taken, on average, at the end of the first round of a 12-team league, beating out guys like Mark Teixeira and Lance Berkman.
But while Howard has averaged 51 blasts over the past three seasons, his batting average has dropped from .313 to .268 to .251.
This, in part, is due to his mediocre contact rate which has never been higher than 69 per cent since he got the call to the majors.
Compare this to an elite 1B such as Albert Pujols (90 per cent) or even an average 1B in Ryan Garko (82) and you see the problem.
In fact, out of the 1B predicted to have more than 400 at bats this year, the next closest to Howard’s miserable 68 per cent is Pittsburgh Pirates’ Adam LaRoche with 75 per cent.
To put it in perspective, that’s an extra 75 strikeouts – one less every other game.
I had Howard in my team last year and I rode him like a mule. If Ks were counted last year, I would probably never have made the playoffs. The Washington Post summed it up last May, less than a third of the way into the season.
Swing and a miss
While 2008 saw a return to his 68 per cent norm from a sub-par 2007 (just 62 per cent), it came at the expense of his walk rate, which dropped dangerously close to 10 per cent.
Industry experts are expecting a slight dip in the number of strikeouts this time around, but with a batting average that will struggle to top .275, Howard can now hurt your team in more ways than one.
Will his 100 runs and .271 average kill your team? Absolutely not. But if it a choice between Howard and Teixeira in New York, I’m following the pinstripes every time.
With a 30-point BA edge, half as few strikeouts, a much better eye and a very comparable fly ball rate, I will happily look for an extra ten homer runs from elsewhere in my lineup.
And with errors also counted in my league, I could also do much better than Howard, as ESPN reported this week.
Howard’s 19 errors “was the most errors by a Phillies first baseman in history. It was the second most by any first baseman in the past quarter century. And it was the most by a first baseman on a World Series team since 1967.”
That’s why I’ll be making a pass at Howard this time around. Sure, he’s working on his defense and yes, he is a good clubhouse guy to have around. But until camararderie and locker room leadership is quantified and incorporated into my fantasy stats, I am saying ‘no thanks’.
He’s gone as early in drafts as fifth overall and as late as 19th. If he falls into the middle of the second round, I’d consider him, but there are still others I’d rather have. If he is available with my fifth pick, there are probably six or seven guys I’d take ahead of him, led by Pujols and Wright.
Howard has unworldly power. We all know that. But if he can’t make contact, you don’t have to worry about fetching the ball back from a downtown Philadelphia parking lot.
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