Today is the 10th anniversary of David Wright’s big-league debut with the Mets, which came on July 21, 2004.
Wright is having a poor season, at least for his lofty standards, but he’s been a helluva player since basically Day 1 and my perception is that he’s one of the most underrated stars in baseball because so much of the focus on his performance is based on the Mets struggling to emerge as contenders for most of his career.
Yet in the middle of his age-31 season he’s already made seven All-Star teams, won a pair of Gold Glove awards, finished among the top-10 vote-getters in MVP balloting four times, and hit an even .300 with an .879 OPS, 230 homers, 187 stolen bases, and 1,660 hits.
To put all of that into some context, here’s how Wright ranks among the all-time leaders in Wins Above Replacement by third basemen through age 31:
Eddie Mathews 81.7
Mike Schmidt 66.6
Ron Santo 64.8
George Brett 61.9
Wade Boggs 59.9
Buddy Bell 54.3
Scott Rolen 53.2
Adrian Beltre 52.3
Brooks Robinson 51.2
Home Run Baker 50.4
DAVID WRIGHT 49.1
Chipper Jones 48.5
He’ll need to stay healthy and get back to his pre-2014 production to have a Hall of Fame career, but Wright is among the dozen best third basemen in MLB history through age 31 and he’s certainly on a Hall of Fame path 10 years in.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: