WHO’S ON FIRST?: Special Guest Brian Joura of METS360 Makes the Case for Lucas Duda

The big question for the 2014 Mets: Who's on first?

A big question for the 2014 Mets: Who’s on first?

Jimmy:

It’s that old Abbott & Costello routine come round again. Who’s on first? The favored son, Ike Davis, has gone down with an injury. Now it appears the Mets are reluctantly prepared to give the ugly stepchild, Lucas Duda, one last look at first base.

I don’t think anyone on the interwebs has been more steadfast in his support of Lucas Duda than Brian Joura of Mets360. So I invited him over so that our Nation of Readers could hear this point of view articulated fully, and forcefully.

What do you think, Brian? Has Lucas gotten a raw deal from the Mets?

Brian:

I don’t know how any objective person can look at what’s happened with Duda and think that he’s gotten a fair shake. Let’s put Ike’s career line and Duda’s next to each other and you tell me which one is better.

  • Door Number One: .242/.334/.434
  • Door Number Two: .252/.343/.428

How can one of these guys be a “core” guy and the other one a AAAA player?

Jimmy:

In scout speak, Maybe Ike has “the good face.” I think of John Olerud with the Blue Jays. Their brass got it into their minds that Olerud needed to hit for more power. They tried to turn him into something he was not — and failed to properly value the player that he was. Do you think that sort of thing has happened with Duda?

Brian:

If he had not gotten hurt, Duda was on pace for 25+ HR. It’s not as good as what Davis did last year but it’s not an embarrassing number, either. But it’s just never enough. You would think they would be impressed by what he’s done while playing out of position. Instead, it seems anything less than 35 HR and dating Taylor Swift would leave the brass unimpressed.

Jimmy:

Wait, I thought it was easy to date Taylor Swift. Halle Berry, now that’s an accomplishment. But I digress. My strong sense — and one that is shared by Mike — is that the organization has given up on Lucas Duda. Unless something radical changes, he’s done in New York. Is that your belief? Do you think it is even possible for him to change minds over this next six weeks of baseball?

Perhaps Mets management would respect Lucas Duda more if he started dating Halle Berry. (What? You wanted more photos of Lucas Duda?)

Perhaps Mets management would respect Lucas Duda more if he started dating Halle Berry. (What? You wanted more photos of Lucas Duda? Forgive us for living!)

Brian:

I do think he’s going to get a legitimate shot to state his case. While he’ll get platooned with Josh Satin, that’s only going to help his numbers and he’ll still get the majority of the starts. One of the knocks on Duda this year has been his poor numbers with RISP and he’s already knocked in three guys since he’s back without the aid of a homer. So, if he can continue to do that I think it will help.

Also, there’s a perception that Duda will be as bad as a first baseman as he was as an outfielder. While I don’t believe he’s any threat to win a Gold Glove, I do think that he will be a league-average defender at first base. He gets to show people that, too.

Jimmy:

How would you respond to the viewpoint that says, hey, he’s had nearly 1,100 PAs over the past three seasons and he hasn’t produced. It’s time to move on.

Brian:

Duda was bad last year. Not first-half Ike Davis bad, but still he was not a good player. But anyone who looks at Duda’s line this year and thinks he was bad is just not being rational. He’s got a 123 OPS+ for crying out loud! Bad is Davis and his 88 OPS+ mark. If a 123 OPS+ is bad, I say we go out and fill our lineup with a half dozen more bad players.

Jimmy:

Conventional wisdom says that Ike Davis has a higher ceiling and a lower floor than Lucas Duda. There’s potentially more payoff with Ike, but also more risk. But I want to focus here on Duda. He is the guy who had 11 HRs and 23 RBIs over nearly 70 games. I realize that RBIs are commonly ridiculed in some bright, tidy corners of the baseball world, but it’s enough to make a simple fellow wonder.

image-2

Brian:

Duda has two things that contributed to his poor RBI total this year. He hit a bunch of solo homers and he didn’t get his with RISP. Both of those things are examples of bad luck more than anything else. The armchair psychiatrists want to make it out to be some kind of character flaw or something silly like that. It’s random and it’s going to balance out in the long run.

Jimmy:

When you look at the way he’s been treated by this organization in comparison to their faith in Ike Davis, last season and this one, don’t you get the sense that management does not believe in Lucas Duda. They’ve watched him up close and they simply don’t like him. These guys are as adept at numbers as you are. Is it possible that there’s some quality — call it, “fire in the belly” — that the man lacks?

Brian:

We’ve heard so much about how Duda struggles with confidence yet all management has ever done is make it hard for him to get established in the majors. They made him play out of position, they sent him to the minors and they bounced him all over the lineup. Perhaps the worst thing is that Duda — the one who struggles with confidence — is the one that our hopefully soon-to-be ex-manager chose last year to remove in the middle of the game and make an example out of for the whole team.

Saint Ike.

Saint Ike.

-

He didn’t do it to Jordany Valdespin, who really needed a kick in the pants, he didn’t do it to Davis over his “too cool for school” attitude, he did it to Duda. I can’t figure out if Duda made a pass at Collins’ wife or if he made a pass at Collins himself to somehow deserve this treatment from his manager.

Jimmy:

So, um, excuse me. I’m just going to attach this teeny little heart monitor to your chest, Brian, just to be cautious. I know this is an upsetting issue for you. Please let me know if you experience any dizziness or a tingling sensation in either of your arms. The fan consensus, according to my informal take on comments in the blogosphere, is that just about everybody is “over” Lucas Duda. One of your own writers at Mets360, Charlie Hangley cautioned way back in February, “I’m afraid he’s Kevin Maas.” Meanwhile, Bill James projected that Duda would put up an OPS of around .800 this year. A few weeks back I joked that Ruben Tejeda should fire his PR firm. Is that Duda’s problem, too? Bad press? And does it trouble you at all that the bad PR seems to come from . . . the New York Mets?

Brian:

It absolutely troubles me.

Bad news #3I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed a GM in the middle of the season diss his Opening Day left fielder like Alderson did to Duda — while he was still in the organization! And I think it speaks volumes about fan perception that there wasn’t more of an outcry over the implications for Duda when Alderson said that he never thought of him as a core player.

People bend over backwards praising Collins and his ability to get players to play hard for him. How about we focus on his people skills for a moment? He had one outspoken player, Valdespin, and he couldn’t handle him. He has a guy in Davis who, from a distance, seems to want to do things only his way, and he’s allowed to yell at umpires and throw equipment, swing at pitches a foot out of the strike zone, watch ground balls go by him with no effort, refuse to slide on close plays — and nothing is ever done. Ruben Tejeda comes in ON TIME to Spring Training two years ago and it’s a national crisis in Collins’ mind. Yet he shows up early this year but out of shape and not doing things on the field that he needs to be successful and nothing is said. Nothing. Only after they played him every single day for 50 games with a .529 OPS, and only after he got hurt, did stuff leak out about his work ethic this year.

We know Collins is capable of ignoring a player and letting him do his thing to be left alone in relative peace. Why he can’t do this with Duda is a mystery.

Jimmy:

Last question. Is it correct to say that if you were GM this winter, you’d try to trade Ike Davis, or failing that, non-tender him, while giving the first base job to Lucas Duda to begin the 2014 season?

Brian:

flavor_cream_sodaI would tell Duda that he’s going to get 500 ABs while playing first base in 2014. I’d tell him he had one year without getting jerked around or publicly mocked by the organization to show what he could do. I’d tell him that while he would sit against some lefties, it wasn’t a straight platoon and he didn’t have to look over his shoulder about being replaced. I’d hand him a Cream Soda and tell him to relax.

Then I’d watch him put up a 130 OPS+ while getting pennies compared to other first basemen with similar production — like the $8 million the Nationals paid Adam LaRoche or the $12 million the White Sox paid Paul Konerko in 2012 to put up those numbers.

Davis — out of sight, out of mind. Deal him if he’s got any trade value. Non-tender him or re-sign him at a reduced rate and send him to Las Vegas to reestablish his trade value. Do whatever it takes so he’s not a temptation for the manager to use for the major league team.

Jimmy:

Thanks, Brian. I’m glad I reached out to you, because I knew you were just the guy to powerfully express the pro-Duda point of view. I appreciate your time. And thanks, too, for the consistently strong content put up by you and your co-writers at Mets360.

 

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12 comments

  1. Patrick Boegel says:

    I could live with either Davis or Duda at 1B as long as some sage wizard could convince me the Mets are going to acquire by unknown means two major league caliber bats to put into LF and RF.

    Based on Sandy Alderson’s “Dear Fans, Punting on 2014 too” email I am guessing that won’t happen. So if next year is going to be another year of Queens weird science, in the crafty words of Tom Petty…

    Time to move on, time to get going…

    • They must upgrade SS and add a high-quality bat to an outfield corner. Very likely need to bring in another veteran arm for the rotation and, always, work to improve the pen. There might not be enough available — on the market and internally — to do more than that. And I could live with it.

      It’s bizarre. I can’t imagine them bringing back Ike Davis . . . and yet . . . I can’t quite imagine them NOT bringing back Ike Davis. That line in Sandy’s letter to the season-ticket holders keeps coming back to me: “Helping our current players will be a key to improving in 2014 and beyond.”

      • Patrick Boegel says:

        If I had to compare the two hitters…

        Ike Davis aggressive and head strong to a fault

        Lucas Duda passive and weak minded to a fault

        I’d rather stick with the former with a gun to my head, and that is sort of what being a Met fan has become. Stick em up, you are paying attention to this train wreck no matter what…

        I submit that last sentence be the tagline for the 2014 Mets.

  2. Michael Geus says:

    We first wrote about Duda back on October 24, 2012, and I summed him up like this:

    “In the end I see Duda very much like Huskey and Milligan before him. A flawed platoon player with some pop who has a major league career during his younger pre-Free Agent years and an endangered species after that.”

    http://2guystalkingmetsbaseball.com/2-guys-talking-is-lucas-duda-the-next-butch-huskey/

    I haven’t seen anything to change my mind. He is a guy who could be part of the 2014 team, but you better upgrade somewhere else on your roster.

    Guys like Tejada, Young, Lagares, Murphy and Duda are, at best, complimentary players. You need those types.. But somewhere on this diamond we also need upgrades, it can’t be David Wright and seven complimentary players.

    Duda over Davis, yes I like that, it is the safer bet. We can’t afford another year of the bad Ike. But if we can get a serious impact bat who plays first we should do that. I never see Lucas becoming that guy.

  3. Eric says:

    The PROMISE of 500 ab’s for Duda in 2014— That’s preposterous!…Promise NOTHING. He’ll likely be here…..Ike probably will NOT—if Lucas will knock the door down, he’ll play…if not……. that needs to be it.

    I have always loved Duda… YES..I believe LUCAS DUDA CAN HIT!!! However, he’s not exactly a short sample—and I’m NOT a flawless evaluator. Here’s what I SEE (apart from Metrics):

    Lucas is hitting with 2 outs, runners on 1st and third…. bottom of the 5th….0-0 game…pitcher on deck…… Lucas is working the count…working a WALK.

    Real RBI Guys look for a pitch to attack in that situation. I wish I could remember the specifics of a Gary Sheffield ab versus the Mets—Believe it was in the WS. They were pitching AROUNF Shef. He wouldn’t have any of it. He kept attacking and fouling off pitches. His priority was RIBBIE.

    Lucas has been so Driiled Down and Cowed by APPROACH–he lacks aggression.

    No Hand Outs….

  4. IB says:

    I agree with Eric. Duda is just too passive. Looks for walks when he needs to drive the ball. Strikes out looking with runners on way, way too often. As a fan, I find him frustrating and difficult to watch. What makes it worse is that he’s got a beautiful swing – even Kiner was impressed. Please, no more Duda, Davis. Time to move on.

  5. Brian Joura says:

    C’mon JP – Halle Berry is 47 years old! If Duda hooked up with her, it would be like A-Rod and Madonna all over again.

    Swift will be 24 at the end of the year – much more age appropriate for Duda. And if Buffalo Head dated her, at least he wouldn’t have to hear his teammates refer to his girlfriend as “grandma.”

    On a serious note, thanks for the invitation to do this – I very much enjoyed it.

  6. If the Mets signed Halle Barry to play first base, and she was required to wear the outfit she’s wearing in that picture, I would consider buying season tix!

  7. Eric says:

    hmmmm…. Brian is far too buried in METRICS. My Eye Test says HB!

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