Can Lucas Duda Lock Down The First Base Job For The Mets?

Who's on first?
Who’s on first?

Who’s on first?

That’s the second time this week that I’ve started off an article with that sentence, and it’s simply because the first base position is still very convoluted for the Mets with Ike Davis in the mix.

It’s my belief that the Mets have no intention of heading into the 2014 season with Ike Davis on the roster, as a mutual splitting would be most beneficial for both sides. I also believe that most teams recognize that this is the Mets’ intentions, so rather than give up a mid or top tier prospect for Ike, they will wait for the Mets to release him and then sign him.

The Mets seem fully prepared to head into the 2014 with Lucas Duda at first base, and possibly a platoon situation where Josh Satin will be in the lineup against left-handed pitchers.

The Mets had high hopes for Duda. I recall Terry Collins once saying he had as much power as anyone in the National League. Many people like Duda’s offensive skill set, while others believe that for a man of his size, he has the offensive mindset of a leadoff hitter. They want to see the Lucas Duda from his call-up in 2011—the guy who showed the promise to not only hit for power, but average over those 100 games.

I started to wonder why a man that is built like a lumberjack would be taking the offensive approach of a top-of-the-order hitter. I wondered if the answer was somewhere in the numbers…

Duda’s Pitch Types

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 12.40.10 PMIn 2011, Duda saw the highest percentage of fastballs that he has seen over the past three years. As you can see from the graphic, his fastball percentage (FA%) has dropped off by about four percent, while the amount of curveball (CU%) and sliders (SL%) he has seen has increased.

This is not uncommon. As scouting reports start circulating about hitters, the pitchers will adjust the way they pitch to certain hitters. A major increase came with the amount of curveballs that Duda is now seeing with compared to his 2011 season. Once the pitchers start changing the way they pitch to the hitter, the hitter has to also adjust. These adjustments will ultimately determine success of a player at the major league level.

Duda’s Aggressiveness

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 12.50.37 PMFor those who are upset with Duda’s approach, and his lack of aggressiveness at the plate, you’re right. Not only is Duda swinging a pitches out of the zone at a lower rate (O-Swing%), but he is also swinging at pitches in the strike zone at a lower rate (Z-Swing%). While it’s impressive to see him laying off pitches out of the strike zone, it’s disappointing to see that he is letting strikes go by, which has become somewhat of a pet peeve amongst Mets fans.

Another alarming stat is that his contact rate has dropped dramatically—by nearly ten percentage points. He was making contact with 90.1% of the pitches thrown in the strike zone in 2011 when he compiled a .292 batting average, and only 80.6% in 2013 where his batting average was .223.

Putting It All Together

After looking at both of the charts above, it’s easy to see what is going on with Duda. All of the information is tied together. Duda is, in fact, less aggressive at the plate. He is swinging less because he is seeing less fastballs. He is also making less contact with pitches in the strike-zone because he is seeing more off-speed pitches. Rather than adjusting, he is opting to wait for fastballs, and he is getting himself deep into counts. When he’s deep in the count, he is forced to swing at the off-speed pitches which causes more swings and misses than in 2011 (lower overall contact percentage).

This combination drives up his strike out rate, and decreases his batting average and the amount of damage he can ultimately do with the bat. While Duda’s walk rate has increased, that increase means nothing if it comes with a decrease in almost every other offensive category. What would be impressive is seeing his walk rate increase, while he also improved his other statistics.

When Duda makes contact, and puts the ball in play, good things happen. For how low his batting average was in 2013, his BABIP was .276—in 2011, it was .326. But for Duda to regain his 2011 form, he will have to adjust his hitting approach. The pitchers have adjusted to him, and rather than adjust, Duda seems to be going ahead with the same approach which is crippling him offensively.

I’m reminded of this quote from CBS.com back in 2012, and wondering if Duda has progressed at all since then:

What Collins does know without a doubt is that Duda isn’t the same timid hitter that originally arrived in the clubhouse last year.

“He now believes in himself,” Collins said. “Where he came up with some doubts last summer, in the beginning he talked about it and vocalized it: `I’m not sure I belong here.’ Well I just think now he believes he belongs here.”

We can break baseball down to it’s simplest form and what you have is Darwinism—like animals striving for survival in the wild, players have to adapt or die. Some of them will do whatever it takes to survive, which is evident from them opting to use Performance Enhancing Drugs. While I’m not saying Duda should use PEDs, he does have to adapt.

If Duda can adapt, he could be the one standing victorious in this game of Survivor to see who is on first base for the Mets in 2014.

  • JustSomeInternetGuyYouDontKnow

    This 1B thing is going to be beat to death. Why can’t they all be traded…Ike, Duda, Dykstra, Allen and let Flores play there.

  • Bail4Nails

    So you’re saying Duda is a First Baseman who can’t hit a curveball?! This sounds eerily similar to someone else we know! I’ll give you a hint: It’s definitely NOT Wilmer Flores!!!

  • Being more aggressive early in the count isn’t a cure either. If he can’t hit off speed pitches then he can’t hit them. He’s getting a ton of them so the adjustment he has to make is either be able to hit them or not.

  • “Can Lucas Duda Lock Down The First Base Job For The Mets?”

    No, he sucks. Next question.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I don’t think Duda is the answer at 1st. I’d give Flores a shot.

  • Destry

    No one finds it interesting that he is swinging at less pitches since the Sandy Alderson regime took over? I mean that is their philosophy. Work deep counts. Get to the bullpen. Swinging at the first pitch is considered a crime. They wanted to move Murphy because he is too aggressive. Don’t think for a second Duda doesn’t want to swing earlier in the count. He is being taught otherwise.

  • Destry

    The guy had a .370 OBP .462 SLG% & 12 HRs in 225 ABs vs RHP. He is the best hitter in the lineup when a RHP is on the hill, which is 2/3 of the time. If they start Satin against LHP, and let Duda PH when a RHP comes in the game, and start Duda against RHP, and PH Satin vs LHP. He will have eye popping stats for the number of ABs he gets. He hit 15 HRs in 1/2 season’s worth of ABs last year.

  • Destry

    Why not just put Flores in CF? He doesn’t know how to play that position either.

  • Benny

    When did you see Flores play 1B?

  • Connor O’Brien

    A Duda/Satin platoon is still the best way to go IMO.

  • JustSomeInternetGuyYouDontKnow

    While we’re making stupid comments why doesn’t Ike play CF. Flores has played 1B before and it’s the most logical place for him. Was it a problem for Cabrera or others when they were moved there? No.

  • Connor O’Brien

    I think 25 home runs, a .360-.380 OBP, and a .450-.475 SLG are all definite possibilities if they’re put in a platoon all year.

  • HawkZon

    No, he isn’t a major league player.

  • Destry

    Lets remember Mike Piazza playing 1B for a moment. You can’t just put someone at a position and expect them to perform. He needs at least a 1/2 season at AAA playing 1B, if that’s where he is gonna play.

  • Destry

    I haven’t, but hardly anyone has. That’s my point. Putting someone in a position there are not yet ready to play, not only affects the team’s defense, but the players offense as well, and he will be focused on learning to play 1B instead of focusing on hitting. Give him 1/2 a season at 1B in Vegas, and if Duda, Murphy or Wright get injured, then call him up. Its a long season.

  • BronxMets

    Butch Huskey………….

  • sperry

    Literally only on the new york mets would Duda even be a thought for a starting first base job

  • philwar

    Agreed. I also think it is the met organization’s approach to hitting that screws with a player’s mind. Both Duda and Davis are victims of this. Who will they mess up next?

  • Benny

    That’s fine, but don’t state he doesn’t know how to play a position that you never have seen him play.

  • Connor O’Brien

    I don’t understand the downvotes on this. All I did was combine Duda’s split from last year against righties and average out to a full season of playing against righties. Then I added Satin’s overall numbers from last year (averaged out to a full season against lefties) as his split against lefties last year isn’t sustainable.
    These aren’t overly optimistic numbers, this is what they did last year…

  • MiqueMetsFan

    Has anyone in the Mets brass seen these numbers? The data doesn’t lie. SA and his team need to look at stuff tlike this. The overly patient approach doesn’t work for every hitter.

  • HobokenMetsFan

    While a Duda/Satin platoon isn’t my ideal choice should that be the Mets 1B situation in 2014, I am curious to see what they can do offensively if platooned correctly like you state above.

    Can any of the saber folks chime in with any projections? Could they be “league average” at 1B?

  • Andrew Herbst

    Exactly. No other team would even consider about playing Duda at 1st.

  • Destry

    I agree with ya. There are too many people that for some reason think Ike is a major league baseball player. Which is amusing to me.

  • E1Guapo

    I think that fans are voting based on emotion. We saw last season as Duda’s and Davis’ last chance to produce for the Mets. Not only did they not perform, their attitudes were not in line with our idea of how a major leaguer should carry themselves. We are ready to move on from these two. At the very least, word from management should very publicly be that absolutely nobody is favored to win the job prior to ST.
    Additionally the Duda/Satin platoon rosy projection was very prominent on metsblog and was roundly rejected as a Wilpon apologist’s answer to not upgrading through trades or signing of Abreu.

  • BronxMets

    I think Duda and Davis’ issue is more a lack of talent to be honest. Davis maybe a little attitude too.

  • Destry

    Pirates would, Brewers would, Nationals would, Marlins would, Rockies would, Astros would, and you can guarantee Billy Beane would have .370 OBP guy vs RHP in the lineup at DH or 1B, and there are number of AL teams that would love to have him at DH.

  • skyking26

    You know there’s issues when you have a platoon at 1b but I would be more confident with Ike at 1b than a Duda/Satin platoon. Duda just needs to go.

  • Destry

    I’ve never him seen him play SS, and he has played a ton of SS, and he can’t play that position. I’m pretty sure that he needs a little bit of seasoning defensively before he’s ready to handle 1B at the major league level. Come on Benny. You’re smarter than that.

  • Destry

    Tell me why you don’t think Duda performed. He did perform last year, Davis did not.

  • MLBGM Fire TC

    Tc needs to go

  • MLBGM Fire TC

    Lolol

  • MLBGM Fire TC

    Why not try him at ss rofl

  • Benny

    Come on man! Now you’re speaking about a premium position, not a corner position. He looks pretty good at 3B, which leads me to believe he will be just fine at 1B with time. I agreed with you that he needs to play there more in your previous comment.

  • skyking26

    I agree with you 100% about Duda not being the answer at 1b and agree Flores should be giving a shot at 1b but don’t see it. For Flores to make it in the big leagues it will be at 3b or 1b. I can see him starting 2014 at 1b in AAA. I would go with Ike over Duda.

  • skyking26

    I think BronxMets issue is more a lack of talent to be honest. Maybe a little attitude too. LOL!

  • skyking26

    To be honest with you Bronx. Duda is an underachiever and always will. Ike’s problem lies on being promoted too soon and a poor hitting coach.

  • BronxMets

    getting promoted to soon same problem as tejada palfrey all the rest undr Omar

  • Vin

    Really nice analysis.

    It actually makes me more concerned for both Lucas and our hitting coach, but better to know the guy can’t hit curves and hasn’t adjusted to that fact then live in irritated ignorance.

  • sperry

    I was wondering when Metsblog’s resident Duda fellator would join us here

  • Connor O’Brien

    If it produces above average numbers, which this platoon in theory would, who cares? As long as it gets results…

  • Connor O’Brien

    It’s not a rosy projection for Duda it’s what he did last year!

  • E1Guapo

    It was good to adjust Satin’s numbers to account for exposure. I think the rosy projections come in because even in a R/L platoon there are going to be a fair amount of late inning situations where they will be facing bullpen pitching and the matchups will more than likely not be favorable in close games. We all know the mets play in a lot of close games due to their offensive woes.

  • E1Guapo

    And I won’t touch Duda’s late inning RISP performance from last year…

  • vigouge

    It’s because you’re going against the grain and using reasoned analysis in projecting a livable option for the Mets at 1b in 2014 rather than just going with gut feeling.

  • vigouge

    The people who rejected it are silly. It’s not rosy by any means.

  • Destry

    Not exactly what I meant. I meant he shouldn’t have stayed at SS so long when he clearly wasn’t going to play there. He could’ve been moved to 3B at lest a year earlier, and when we signed David Wright to an 8 year deal, he should’ve played 1B/2B. I think it should’ve also been pretty clear that he couldn’t play 2B as slow as he is, so I’m not sure why he played there almost exclusively last season.

  • Benny

    Agreed…

  • Destry

    Been here a while. Still promoting Duda and Drew. Unfortunately, I’m promoting to the same people now. Ha. Just messing with ya man.

  • I don’t think Duda will ever be anything more than a poor man’s Adam Dunn. If he had the ability to adjust, it probably would have happened already. Hopefully I’m wrong and he is just a late bloomer.

  • Pike Miazza

    That’s what I was thinking…stick him at SS…
    Can you imagine that ???
    LMAO

  • The bad news?? Duda has done more than enough to discourage anyone from expecting him to be anything but an average player at best and a fringe player most likely. The good news?? Spring is almost here. And when Spring comes around, and baseball comes back, we as fans lose our minds hoping for the best and forgetting anything we’ve learned from the years prior because guys are in the best shape of their lives, have changes their diets and lifestyle habits, have made the necessary adjustments for their game, and have grown in understanding what it takes to succeed at the big league level.

    Gotta love baseball.

  • MLBGM Fire TC

    Rofl could it be worse that todd hundley in left???

  • Hotstreak
  • Andrew Herbst

    I don’t think Duda is an every day 1b, He has been given several chances and has not shown enough. I don’t see him hitting for enough power to be a DH.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I agree. As much as I would like to see it happen, I don’t think Flores will get a shot at 1st at the major league level. I’d rather go with Ike over Duda.

  • Pike Miazza

    Hilarious……on a serious note, if I ran the Mets organization I would have told EY on the last day of the season, “Sign up somewhere to play winterball & practice playing SS all winter long.” I think he could do it….

  • MLBGM Fire TC

    Hey who the heck knows, at this point, why not have him take some grounders a ss in winter ball.

  • Destry

    The only time he has ever been given the chance at 1B he succeeded at an All-Star level.

  • RyanF55

    No, no he cant. This will be an open competition at first come Spring Training but I am just not high on Duda. I have to think Davis and Flores provide much better promise than Duda ever will.

  • Andrew Herbst

    That’s true. But he never had that kind of season again.

  • Bail4Nails

    I’m worried about Murphy next season. That recent interview where he talked about being more selective at the plate, in order to get a higher OBP, and possibly more HRs. That has Sandy Alderson written all over it. Yes, you may want Murphy to be less of a free swinger. But that’s part of who Murphy is, A TOUGH OUT. He’s so good with 2 strikes probably because he got good at swinging at bad pitches. He makes just enough contact to foul it off and stay in the at-bat. Why they want to change him is beyond me.

  • Bail4Nails

    I’m ok with Duda/Satin holding the fort until Flores is comfortable at 1B. But once Flores gets there, leave him there, and leave him alone. Don’t try to change his swing, his stance, his pitch selection. Learn from the Davis Debacle.

  • kw_all

    this was the best analysis of Duda i have ever seen … and completely justifies my distaste for his presence on the team.
    what makes anyone think 2014 will be any different from 2013, especially with RISP ?

  • Captain America

    Mets reported in on my guy now according to mlb radio – — Kendrys Morales !!!!

    Rotoworld source