Well, Lucas Duda did it again yesterday. Trailing by a run in the sixth inning, The Dude launched his ninth home run of the season, tying the game at three and sparking a four run inning that would put the Mets up 6-3. His right field defense has been questionable to say the least, but there is no doubt Duda can hit, and hit for power, which is really what the Mets want him to do anyway. In just 274 plate appearances this season, Duda has nine homers, which would amount to about 21 homers in a full season (assuming 650 PAs). More remarkable is the fact that all of the lefty’s long balls have come in his last 142 PAs; if he kept that pace, Duda would hit over 40 home runs in a season, something only Todd Hundley (41 in 1996) and Carlos Beltran (41 in 2006) have done.
The odds of Duda maintaining his current pace aren’t too likely, but if given the chance the play a full season, he should certainly be able to slug 20 homers in a season, and would probably hover around 30. That kind of power has been lacking in the Mets lineup all season, but Duda has the ability to hit the ball out of the yard, even at Citi Field. Combine that with the fact that he has a decent eye at the plate (walking at a 8.0% clip while striking out at a 16.1% rate, both pretty solid for a power hitter) and Duda has the makings of a solid Major League hitter. But for now, what’s gotten the attention of many is his raw strength.
The ESPN Home Run Tracker contains many details regarding player’s home runs. In addition to information like distance traveled and speed off the bat, Home Run Tracker calculates the effects due to wind and temperature, groups homers into different categories (such as “No Doubt” and “Just Enough) and computes in how many ballparks the ball would have left the yard.
Out of Duda’s nine long balls this season, three have been No Doubt (including yesterday’s off Livan Hernandez), meaning that “the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet AND landed at least 50 feet past the fence,” two have been Just Enough, meaning that “the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence,” and the remainder have been classified as “Plenty,” which includes homers in between the No Doubt and Just Enough categories. So based on these classifications, only two of Duda’s have been cheapies. But were those two homers really that cheap?
In fact, I wouldn’t consider either one of Duda’s Just Enough home runs cheap at all. One of them came on July 27 at Cincinnati, which was an absolute laser that had barely cleared the right field wall-it may not have been a high towering shot, but the ball was ripped. The other was a dramatic game-tying blast off Florida’s Leo Nunez on August 1, which traveled 433 feet to dead center and would have been gone in 26 parks; it was only categorized as Just Enough because it barely cleared the center field wall, which as Mets fans know, is pretty far away. In my eyes, all of Duda’s blasts have been impressive in one way or the other.
For example, Duda has been able to hit against the wind. Against Yovani Gallardo at Citi Field on August 21, The Dude hit one out that went 395 feet, despite losing six feet because of the wind. His first long ball of the season on July 23 at Florida went for 447 feet (his longest homer of the year), despite losing four feet to the wind (although apparently temperature had a positive impact of two feet). In addition, out of his nine home runs, eight of them would’ve been out in 26 or more ballparks (the one exception was the homer vs. the Reds). In short, Duda could hit the ball out anywhere. That’s important because clearly some ballparks are more conducive to serving up long balls, and the fact that Duda can has shown the ability to homer in tough pitcher’s parks is a great sign.
Early this season, Duda struggled with his confidence, but that seems to be a thing of the past. Duda is driving the ball with regularity and is making a strong case to be the Mets everyday right fielder in 2012. As long as he continues to impress in the power department, there’s plenty of reason for The Dude to be an integral part of the offense next year.