Lucas Duda got off to one of the more forgettable starts that a player can have when spring training opened up back in February. In fact, for the month of February, he was 1/10 at the plate with seven strikeouts. With numbers like those, fans began to question whether Duda would ever be able to put it together at the big league level.
Duda was given a few days off after his slow start, and the fact that he was recovering from a fractured wrist and that he changed his stance started to become the excuses for his slow start. Mets fans were skeptical, but the month of March is proving to be much better for the left-handed slugger.
Through the 18th, Duda is hitting .286 with three home runs—not too shabby.
Hitting is funny like that. You can go weeks without hitting water if you were to jump off a bridge, then all of a sudden be on complete fire again. One of the smartest decisions I have ever seen Terry Collins make was to rest Duda for those few games after his slow start. A decision like that could have potentially saved Duda’s season. Sure, Collins could have let Duda keep going out there and try to swing his way out of his slump, but what would have happened had it not worked? A young player like Duda could have been mired in that slump for weeks, and maybe get to the point where he’s trying to figure it out down in Triple-A again. Another demotion could have been detrimental to Duda.
Instead, Collins made the right decision in giving Duda a few days off, and Duda has responded in March with very formidable numbers thus far.
It wasn’t until the opposite field homerun that Duda hit on Monday (3/18) that I started to really get the sense that he is finally coming around. As a hitter, you know you are locked in when you are taking the ball to the opposite field gap. For Duda, the left-centerfield homerun shows that his bat had officially awoken from its February slumber.
In a quote from the New York Post, Collins stated “That’s one of the biggest things of spring training that we’ve been trying to get from him, and before that. To get him to understand the great power he’s got to center field and to left-center field, and certainly it’s good to see it.”
I always remember growing up as a ball player and having it drilled into my brain to work on hitting the ball to right-center (for a right-handed hitter, opposite for left-handed). It helps to keep the hitter inside the baseball, thus becoming a more complete hitter using all fields. This is a difficult philosophy to teach to younger hitters, especially power hitters who have the urge to pull everything. The key is to get them to trust their hands, and that not everything has to be pulled. The homeruns will come; they just have to trust their hands.
It’s good to see Duda taking the ball the other way with power. It looks like Duda is trusting his hands again, which is a great sign. It’s easy for hitters to try and break out of their slump by falling back into their comfort zone, which is pulling the ball. However, that just tends to dig the hitter into a deeper slump, and it isn’t until they trust their hands that the hits start coming again. It’s like the guy who just had his heart broken by his girlfriend in college, and now doesn’t want to leave his dorm room because it’s his comfort zone. It may be awhile before he trusts the opposite sex and gets that confidence back that he had before. But once he leaves that comfort zone, and starts to trust again, he starts getting the digits.
There is still a week and a half until opening day, but the Mets, and the fans alike, should be pleased to see what Duda has been doing with the bat so far in the month of March. If he continues to build on the success he has had in March, and focus on taking the ball to the left-centerfield gap, the Mets will have a very dangerous hitter on their hands in 2013.