Is Lucas Duda a good player, or not?
I’m still not sure, frankly. I guess I see him as a complementary piece. But when a team is comprised too heavily with complementary bats, like these Mets, the offense doesn’t function.
Let’s look at some numbers. As of this writing (not including Wednesday night’s game), the Mets are 37-47. That’s 84 games in the books. Across 282 PAs, Lucas Duda has put together a .252/.344/.467 slash line, which is remarkably consistent with his career numbers over more than 1,500 PAs: .247/.342/.432.
Despite the fact that Duda has started only 64 of the Mets 84 games, he has put up solid counting stats: 12 HRs, 41 RBI. Over the remaining 78 games, it’s fair to assume that he’ll get close to 70 starts (the big red flag waving on the horizon is Duda’s unacceptable 2014 performance against LHP: .159/.275/227).
Given another 310 PAs, Lucas would blow away his previous high of 459 PAs in 2012. Provided with that opportunity, it’s reasonable to project that he’d give the Mets 25 HRs and 85-90 RBI.
Folks would sign up for that, right? All for the low, low price of $1,637.500.
He hits a HR every 20.5 ABs, and drives in a Run every 6 at-bats.
We know he can’t run and lacks defensive mobility. Yet his hands are soft and it’s fair to term his defense as “okay enough, I guess.” Is that a category?
He usually bats 6th in the lineup (38 times), compared to cleanup (only 9 times).
PITCH COUNTS TELL AN IMPORTANT STORY
When Lucas Duda swings at the first pitch (and puts it into play, presumably), which he has done 28 times this season, his slash line is .464/.464/.893.
Got that? An OPS of 1.357.
Yet this is the guy we like because he works deep counts? That’s so wrong.
Up 1-0 in the count, he has swung and put the ball into play only 13 times, with this result: .538/.538/1.462.
Down 0-1, he’s swung 23 times: .435/.458/.522. Again, amazingly productive early in the AB.
Swing the bat, Lucas.
For stark comparison, look at this:
- AFTER 1-1: .171/.290/.324
- AFTER 2-1: .197/.345/.352
- AFTER 3-1: .217/.471/.391
- AFTER 0-2: .233/.353/.395
- AFTER 1-2: .145/.268/.261
- AFTER 2-2: .136/.313/.182
Swing the bat, big man. Swing often, swing early, swing hard.
Obviously, it’s a game of adjustments. You don’t want to become a robot, swinging at every first pitch. Word would get around. At the same time, passiveness does not suit Lucas Duda. The walks seem nice, as a number, but the baseball reality is that he’s a slow man clogging up the basepaths . . . batting in the wrong slot in the order.
In 2014, he’s reached base 97 times (H + BB + HBP), not counting times he’s reached on a force play (probably not often). Subtract the 12 HRs, and that’s Lucas Duda standing on base 85 times for the NY Mets, including 17 doubles. Of those 85 times, he’s come around to score 18 runs.
Because of course he does.
He’s slow and he bats 6th for the stinking NY Mets.
In the end, what have we got here? A 28-year-old mystery wrapped in an enigma, the masher inside the marshmallow. A guy getting his first real full season of play, coming to the plate 600 times, and putting up respectable numbers. A hitter who, in terms of approach, seems to do things the wrong way. Maybe some folks like that he works counts, is patient at the plate, draws walks. I don’t. I’d like to see him amp the aggressiveness up — way up.
Could he goose it to 30 HR, 100 RBI? Seems possible.
But not if he gets patted on the back every time he takes a 2-1 fastball.
ONE LAST THING . . .
When we examine how he hits in game situations, more red flags emerge. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, since I don’t have the league comparisons at hand. But pick a category, “2 outs, RISP,” “Late & Close,” “Tie Game” and his OPS plummets: .752, .386, .623 respectively. Maybe that’s true of most players, I don’t know.
But “Late & Close,” he’s come to the plate 60 times and put up this slash: .113/.217/.170.
Who knows, some of that likely derives from the fact he’s seeing a lefty specialist at that point in the game. Late and close, bring in the southpaw, because it turns Lucas Duda into an easy out. The Stay Puft Man.
That’s a huge flaw in his game right now, one that will likely forever prevent him from becoming a truly effective first baseman. I’m glad he’s getting a full season to show us what he can do with regular playing time. So far I’d have to say: Not bad, not great.
Final grade: Incomplete.
RANDOM FACT . . .
Bobby Abreu has PH for the Mets 27 times in 2014: .083/.185/.125.
Two freaking hits, three walks.
Let’s put this myth to rest.
Conversely, as a starter (21 games): .324/.400/.485.
And, oh yeah: Noah Syndergaard started a game in Las Vegas on Wednesday in 111 degree temperatures. Great, just great. The place, the park, is not meant for baseball, yet that’s where the club stakes its future.