So, Lucas Duda sat out the last two games against the Braves in Atlanta with a bad hamstring. He is getting his injury examined by team doctors in New York today on the Mets’ off day, but manager Terry Collins said that his right fielder will probably not be landing on the disabled list. However, once Jason Bay returns, Duda could be losing some playing time to Scott Hairston, especially against left-handed pitchers.
After Duda had a solid showing in 100 games played last year in 2011, and the Mets almost immediately inserted him as the starting right fielder for this year during the winter. Knowing that they would be sacrificing some defense with him in the outfield (-15 Rdrs in ’12) his triple slash of .292/.370/.482 was worth having in the lineup to create a formidable middle of the order with David Wright and Ike Davis. The organization believes that Duda has the potential to become a 30 HR/ 100 RBI threat and he has the skill set to become that kind of hitter, but not without some bumps in the road. The hardest part about being a successful MLB hitter is to continue a string of success after word has gotten out around the league about a hitter’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s looks to be Duda’s problem during his current slump.
He’s been an everyday player for the Mets for just over a calendar year, and it looks like pitchers have figured him out, which means
that Duda needs to adjust his game to continue succeeding, something he hasn’t done yet. Throughout the first three months of the season, he was among the team leaders in both home runs and RBI, being the main source of protection for David Wright while Ike Davis struggled through most of the first half. He’s actually coming off one of his most productive months, as he swatted 4 home runs, drove in 17 runs, walked 14 times, and scored 12 runs.
Now, we’re halfway through the month of July, and Duda’s performance at the plate has been dreadful (.138/.286/.241). What’s been more concerning for the Mets has been his lack of power production; so far this month, Lucas has only hit one home run, which has also accounted for his only run batted in. Although his walk rate (12.5%) has increased from last season, he’s striking out at a higher rate than he ever has in his professional career (26.2% in ’12 vs. 16.4% in ’11). What has caused Lucas to fall into this slump? It’s been his inability to adjust to the change in opposing pitchers’ approach.
What’s jumped out to me the most is that Duda is seeing many more breaking balls than he did last season. He’s seen sliders 14.4% of the time in 2012, whereas he saw them 10.7% of the time in 2011; he’s also seen more curveballs this season, 11% in ’12 compared to 9.2% in ’11. These don’t seem like huge jumps in percentages, but for a hitter that is tied for 20th in the MLB for most walks (41 BBs), he’s liable to see more breaking pitches as he gets deeper into counts, especially since he has home run power. So, it’s really a matter of Duda adjusting to more breaking balls and taking those pitches the other way instead of trying to pull them.
Terry Collins said it best last week when he said that it starts and ends with the bat for Lucas Duda; the Mets are willing to accept his lack of defense for his surplus of offense, but when he’s consistently not producing, it’s hard for Collins to continue writing his name in the lineup everyday. It makes sense to put Scott Hairston in his place, but he’s been most effective as a part-time player this year, and he’s a valuable weapon off the bench that needs to stay there. So, for the Mets offense to keep rolling, the performance of Lucas Duda is very important and he needs to adjust sooner rather than later.