Slumps happen, even to the most accomplished of players, and Mets captain David Wright insists that this one feels no different from others.
Physically, despite a balky left shoulder that required a cortisone shot, he repeatedly has said he's well enough to produce. Mentally, he has attacked this downturn the same way he always has, putting his work in the cage while turning to video in search of clues.
"All I can go off is based on feel," Wright said. "And the feel I have is that you go through a rough patch and you bounce back."
Yet, Wright's season has been anything but typical, at least when compared with the previous lines on his resume.
His power has disappeared. Or, more precisely, it hasn't materialized in the homers that he's used to racking up. Just one season after he slugged .514 and made his seventh All-Star team, he has dipped to .383, a figure that's more than 100 points behind his career mark of .497.
In 112 games entering Tuesday night, Wright has just eight homers. The development comes with Wright in the second season of an eight-year, $138-million extension. But general manager Sandy Alderson cautioned about making too much about the dip -- a stance that may be backed statistically.
"It would be way premature to generalize what's going to happen going into the future based on this season," Alderson said. "The last couple of years he's been outstanding."
There is evidence to suggest that Wright's power hasn't disappeared, but has been obscured by other factors, ranging from bad luck to the balky shoulder he played through early in the year.
"Do I think the power's going to come back? I don't know that it's gone anywhere," manager Terry Collins said. "His swing got a little long I think, maybe due to the fact that his shoulder bothered him a little bit earlier. I think he's fine now. But that's why I think his swing's getting better now."
On the surface, Wright's downturn may hint at typical decline. He's 31 and entering a period in which players can slow down.
Yet, he's hitting the ball just as hard as he had last season. The exit velocity numbers that the Mets use internally show no big difference. Nor do many other measures of what happens once the ball leaves the bat, such as his line-drive rate (23.5 percent this year compared with 22.6 percent in his career).
His batting average for balls in play (.322) is lower than his lifetime mark (.339), an indication of some misfortune.
But Wright's walk rate (7.7 percent) is abnormally low, perhaps a reflection of pressing to turn things around, or pitchers making it a point to challenge him more. And fewer of his fly balls are turning into home runs.
Whatever the reasons for his struggles, the Mets could use a turnaround soon.
The power outage has been conspicuous. From the critical No. 3 spot in the lineup -- where Wright has batted in every game he has started -- the Mets have generated just a .722 OPS. Only the Padres and Reds have gotten less.
Wright's 10-game hitting streak entering Tuesday night has been a reflection of his season. Though he's hitting .286 during the stretch, he has just one extra-base hit, or a .310 slugging percentage.
"We've seen that he's really not [driving the ball] right now," Collins said. "But he's getting hits and that's all I care about right now, we keep getting guys on, keep getting hits."
While the Mets can get away with singles in the short term, they'll need much more going forward, a fact not lost on Wright.
"I don't want to go through this," Wright said. "And when I look up there and see that I'm not holding up my end of the bargain as far as the production I'm supposed to put up in the middle of the lineup, of course I hold myself to high standards. At the same time, I've realized over the years it takes one good swing, one good hit to snap out of it."
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