Quick Hits: Lucas Duda Isn’t Struggling at the Plate

By Dan Haefeli

It’s a common narrative we’ve been hearing from bloggers alike. Lucas Duda has been a disappointment in Spring Training. His job is at risk.

I feel like for all we hear about spring stats not mattering, people tend to cite them as gospel when it fits their narrative. It’s like when the Mets’ ST record last year foretold of gloom and misery until they went 46-40 in the first half. I know it’s convenient to say this today, but it’s true. Lucas Duda is doing just fine with the bat in his hand.

July 18, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; New York Mets right fielder Lucas Duda (21) doubles in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The Nationals defeated the Mets 4 – 3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, he looked like hell out of the gate (going 0-7 with 6 strikeouts), but it makes sense when you combine an entirely new swing with a broken wrist. But he’s been entirely different since coming back. 6:3 K:BB, 2HR in 28 PA, hitting a gaudy .320/.393/.640. By comparison, Miguel Cabrera has been his dominant self, hitting .320/.346/.720 in 25 PA. Certainly these narratives come from different perspectives, as Cabrera is the Triple-Crown-Winning reigning AL MVP, and Duda is looking to rebound from a disappointing sophomore season that ended with a .718 OPS and a month-long demotion to AAA Buffalo.

And certainly, we’re dealing with a small sample size here; 28 plate appearances is roughly only 6 full games worth of data. But, speaking of that…

The argument that Duda can’t handle major league pitching pretty much because of a miserable 21-game stretch in late June/July 2012. From his initial promotion on June 10, 2011 until June 22nd, 2012 (a span of 592 PA over 168 games), Duda hit .288/.369/.480 with 29 doubles and 21 home runs. To put that in perspective, only 13 qualified outfielders posted a higher OPS in 2012. He was in the midst of following up a great rookie campaign with a .267/.354/.448 slashline and was on pace to hit 27 home runs. He then went frigid, hitting .160/.276/.213 in his next 87 plate appearances and was demoted after July 22nd. When he returned he wasn’t great (.230/.308/.383 in 104 PA, 3 HR), but he posted a better walk rate and ISO over that span than David Wright (.268/.314/.402 in 147 PA). Those numbers also were well above those of competitor Jordany Valdespin, who in his last 103 PA hit .194/.257/.269.

I’m all about bringing Valdespin north next month; his spring training numbers and versatility warrant an opportunity. But there’s absolutely no merit in it being at the expense of Lucas Duda. His defense may be sub-par at best, but more evidence exists of him being a very good offensive outfielder than otherwise.

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