There were a lot of good things in yesterday’s 6-0 Opening Day win over the Braves. Noah Syndergaard pitched phenomenally, Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits, and the bullpen pitched three shutout innings. One of the most promising events of the game, however, took place in the 7th inning.
The Mets had already scored three runs in the inning with the help of a timely hit by Cabrera, a sacrifice fly from Curtis Granderson, and a bases loaded walk to Jay Bruce. Next up was Lucas Duda strolled to the batters’ box to face lefty Eric O’Flaherty with the bases loaded. After taking a first pitch strike, Duda cracked a sinker to left-center field, clearing the bases and giving the Mets a 6-0 lead.
“I think it’s a big hit for Lucas, you know after missing all that time last year,” manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game. “I just thought it was a huge hit for him.”
It was big because it sealed the Mets win, but it was bigger because it came off a lefty. The Mets have a potentially devastating platoon at first base with Duda facing righties and Wilmer Flores facing lefties, however Duda has recently shown to be effective against southpaws.
In 2015, for example, Duda actually was much better against lefties than righties. He hit .285/.333/.545 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 123 at-bats against lefties while hitting .230/.358/.466 with 20 home runs and 52 RBIs in 348 at-bats against righties. 2016 saw him hit better against right-handed pitchers, however it was a much smaller sample size, hitting .133/.188/.267 with one home run versus lefties in 30 at bats and .252/.329/.447 with six home runs in 123 at bats vs righties.
It is an interesting comparison, though, as you can compare his 2015 stats against lefties with his 2016 stats against righties as they were the same exact amount of at bats, and therefore the same sample size. In that comparison, Duda’s 2015 numbers against lefties are clearly better than his 2016 numbers against righties. If yesterday’s game was any indication, those trends might continue. He will probably continue to hit righties better, however he could hit lefties to a similar clip and be a more complete hitter.
Obviously Eric O’Flaherty is far from the best lefty out there. However, that at-bat as well as his recent history suggest he might be better against lefties than his reputation suggests. I’m not saying platooning him with Wilmer Flores isn’t a good idea, it certainly is considering how Wilmer obliterates lefties, but the idea that Duda can’t hit lefties could be erroneous. Duda has plenty of potential and if he stays healthy could put up another 30 home runs easy. Don’t be surprised if a bunch of those come off left-handers!