Season in preview: Third base

This one won’t take long.

The third basemen in April: David Wright, Daniel Murphy.

Overview: That’s the other thing about these 74-win type predictions: You remember the Mets still have (among others) David Wright, right? And yeah, I know he wasn’t the same player in 2009 and 2010 that he was from 2006-2008, and that one good player does not a great team make, but it’s like everyone has gotten so caught up in Wright’s weird fluctuations at the plate that they’ve forgotten that even at worst he’s still awesome.

Wright’s 131 OPS+ was second best among NL third basemen in 2010. He can boast the Majors’ highest cumulative fWAR at his position since 2006. He is 28 years old.

Yes, the increasing strikeout totals over the last two years are worrisome, what with the flailing at pitches on the outside part of the plate and the ducking away from curveballs on the inside half. People have blamed Howard Johnson and Matt Cain. I’ve got no great explanation. I only know that none of it has yet prevented Wright from being a great hitter, and that, despite watching two years of his relative “struggles,” I will always, always bet on David Wright triumphing over any adversity he meets at the plate.

Even if Wright has another year like 2009 or another year like 2010 (I distinguish them because they were, for him, very different years), he will still be among the very best third basemen in the game. If, under a new manager and hitting coach, Wright reverts to the form he showed from 2006-2008, he may be the best.

The third basemen in September: Wright, maybe Murphy.

How they stack up: Wright is better than Placido Polanco, Donnie Murphy and, at this point, Chipper Jones. Ryan Zimmerman has probably been better than Wright over the past two seasons, in large part because of his far superior defense. Zimmerman did seem to benefit — at least in part — from a batting average on balls in play a bit better than his career norms, but it’s hard to confidently say he won’t be as good or better than Wright in 2011. But even so, there’s really no shame in being the second best third baseman in the division when the first has been among the best players in the game for two straight seasons.

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