2011 Season In Review: Lucas Duda
The New York Mets went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an ongoing series, will analyze every single Mets player who picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at outfielder Lucas Duda.
There are a few reasons why I am a supporter of Lucas Duda. The first is that I love The Big Lebowski and Duda’s last name just fits. But a more important reason is that he actually can make an impact in the Mets lineup next season. In his limited Major League action, Duda has flashed offensive skills which could help him become a productive everyday player for the Amazins.
The Mets drafted Duda in the seventh round in 2007. After a mediocre first few seasons in the minors, Duda broke out in 2010, hitting .304/.398/.569 with 23 homers between Binghamton and Buffalo, earning him a September 2010 call-up. Despite struggling at the big league level that season, Duda made the Opening Day roster in 2011.
The Dude had a couple of brief stints with the Mets early in 2011, both of which did not go well. In his first 23 plate appearances (spread over the two stints) Duda tallied just two hits and two walks. In the minors, however, Duda continued to mash, smacking ten homers in 157 plate appearances. When he returned to the big leagues in early June, Duda finally began to show off his talent.
Of course, the home runs did not come right away. In fact, upon his return to the Mets, Duda went 109 plate appearances without a long ball, although he did hit .313/.376/.469 with nine doubles, three triples and eleven walks against just twelve strikeouts. Finally, in his 110 PA of the season, Duda launched a bomb off the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, and after that the power wasn’t a problem. In his final 215 PA, Duda slugged .524 with ten homers and eleven doubles. On the season, Duda finished with a very respectable .292/.370/.482 line and ten homers.
In addition to his power, Duda showed a good batter’s eye, especially for a power hitter. In 347 PA, Duda walked 33 times (9.5%) and struck out just 57 (16.4%). To compare, the Major League walk rate was 8.1%, while the strikeout rate was 18.6%. He also swung and missed at just a 8.0% clip. Furthermore, he showed an ability to hit pitches other than the fastball. Against curves and changeups, Duda was worth 3.18 and 1.54 runs above average per 100 pitches, respectively, according to FanGraphs.
Defensively, Duda still needs work. He was fine at first base (minus one defensive run saved), but struggled in right field, costing the Mets eight runs defensively and posting a UZR of -11.8. Considering Duda played a total of just 25 games in right field while in the minors, these numbers aren’t exactly surprising. He also lacks the speed to make up for any misreads on fly balls. Hopefully Duda will get enough work in during spring training to improve his defense, but nobody should expect him to win any Gold Gloves.
Despite his lack of Major League experience, Duda can play a critical role for the Mets in 2012. He might possess the most power in the lineup (along with Ike Davis) and should benefit from the new Citi Field dimensions. The defense needs work, but if he puts up enough offense, the Mets will accept the tradeoff. In an ideal world, Duda will continue to show patience at the plate while smacking 25-30 homers, hitting in the middle of the order. If he can do that, Duda could solidify his place in the Mets lineup for the future.