Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wright Following in Rolen's Footsteps

Wright has missed significant time in 5 of the past 6 seasons (CBS New York)
With David Wright sidelined by yet another injury, this time out indefinitely with spinal stenosis, I couldn't help but think of another talented two-way third baseman who became a walking medical bill in his 30s.

For almost a decade before Wright burst on the scene with the Mets, Scott Rolen was the National League's best at the hot corner. In fact, from 1997-2004, Rolen ranked third among MLB position players in fWAR behind only Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. I was surprised to see that during this time, Rolen was a more valuable player than Chipper Jones, who many feel is Hall of Fame-bound.

Rolen appeared headed for Cooperstown as well following his monster 2004 campaign, in which he was worth 9.1 bWAR and posted a 1.007 OPS. Like Nomar Garciaparra and countless others throughout baseball history, however, he was unable to sustain his early success as injuries sapped his performance during his 30s. Multiple shoulder surgeries wrecked his career, preventing him from completing what was shaping up to be a Hall of Fame resume.

Wright, who also had a Cooperstown-caliber start to his career, has closely mirrored Rolen's trajectory. Both debuted at 21, secured everyday roles at 22, and immediately emerged as elite players. After remaining mostly healthy and productive throughout their 20s, they began experiencing injury problems and deteriorating performance in their early 30s.

Through age 32 (Wright's current age) their numbers are remarkably similar:

Rolen 1,505 G 954 R 380 2B 261 HR 1,012 RBI 104 SB .283/.372/.507 (126 OPS+) 55 bWAR
Wright 1,516 G 910 R 375 2B 231 HR 943 RBI 193 SB .298/.377/.494 (134 OPS+) 49.9 bWAR

Wright's future is unknown in the wake of his latest malady, but appears gloomy based on how the second half of Rolen's career played out. Constantly beset by injuries, Rolen averaged just 11 home runs and 57 RBI per season during his 30s. The Mets can only hope that Wright, who is owed $87 million over the next five seasons, avoids a similar decline.

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