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David Wright’s debut on 2024 Hall of Fame ballot another reminder of what could have been

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David Wright Mets
David Wright (Wikimedia Commons)

Injuries robbed baseball and the New York Mets of witnessing David Wright’s full career — and likely much consideration up in Cooperstown, too.

Following the election of Scott Rolen on Tuesday night, the former third baseman and Mets captain will make his debut on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 ballot where it’s considered a longshot that he gets the necessary 75% approval of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to get in.

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To (unfairly) put, he simply doesn’t have the overall body of work to garner the consideration needed to make a legitimate push — a brilliant start to his career was derailed by a stress fracture in his back suffered in 2011 that ultimately led to the diagnosis of spinal stenosis, three surgeries over a two-year stretch, more than half a decade of attempting to will his team through ceaseless pain, appearing in just 44.8% of his team’s games over an eight-year stretch from 2011-2018, and an all-too-early, obligatory retirement five years ago.

His career WAR of 49.2 would be the second-lowest for a Hall-of-Fame position player appearing in a game after 1980 (Harold Baines, 38.8). His JAWS — developed by Jay Jaffe that contains a combination of career and seven-year peak WARs — of 44.3 is  11.4 points under the average mark for Hall of Fame third basemen. For reference, Rolen’s JAWS was 56.9; just above the average for Hall-of-Fame third basemen of 55.6.

Bill James, who developed a 0-100 grading scale known as the Hall of Fame value standard — with 50 being the score for an average Hall of Famer — and is featured on Baseball Reference,  has administered a score of 36 to Wright.

If only he had stayed healthy.

Over his first six full seasons in the majors beginning from his first campaign of at least 502 plate appearances from 2005-2010 (not counting his 69-game debut in 2004), Wright was one of the elite third basemen in Major League Baseball. He slashed .306/.387/.515 (.902 OPS) with 155 home runs and 624 RBI. That’s an average of 26 home runs and 104 RBI per season. 

Compare that to the 14 Hall-of-Fame third basemen that played in MLB and Wright’s start as a pro is comparable to most and even better than some. For stat-keeping purposes, the first season of the first six-full-season stretch contained in the graph below must begin with the player’s first year that featured at least 502 plate appearances.

David Wright vs. Hall of Fame 3rd Basemen: First 6 Full Seasons

Player

Games Played (Seasons)

Batting Average

On-Base + Slugging (OPS)

Hits

Home Runs

RBI

David Wright 935 (2005-2010) .306 .902 1,072 155 624
Home Run Baker 890 (1909-1914) .321 .847 1,094 48 610
Wade Boggs 923 (1983-1989) .356 .937 1,274 56 425
George Brett 856 (1975-1980) .326 .895 1,123 96 532
Jimmy Collins 825 (1897-1902) .317 .814 1,048 44 585
Chipper Jones 927 (1995-2000) .303 .931 1,049 189 635
George Kell 795 (1944-1949) .305 .757 939 18 348
Freddie Lindstrom 787 (1926-1931) .331 .852 1,064 72 474
Eddie Mathews 880 (1952-1957) .281 .943 902 222 586
Paul Molitor 752 (1978-1983) .292 .770 899 60 281
Scott Rolen 862 (1997-2002) .283 .886 904 160 585
Ron Santo 958 (1961-1966) .286 .853 1,021 158 574
Brooks Robinson 871 (1958-1963) .278 .725 906 62 358
Mike Schmidt 939 (1974-1979) .262 .909 868 216 611
Pie Traynor 888 (1922-1927) .316 .798 1,096 35 568

Had Wright even been able to maintain anything close to his numbers from his first 11 seasons in the league (2004-2014) that featured the beginning of his injury issues through the 2018 season and his retirement, his resume for the Hall of Fame is that much stronger.

He would have possessed a projected career slash line of .298/.377/.494 (.871 OPS) and with his annual averages over that 15-year stretch, would have ended his career with 2,325 hits, 315 home runs, and 1,275 RBI. That batting average would rank eighth amongst the career stats of the Hall of Famers listed above, seventh in hits and home runs, and ninth in RBI. 

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