Trading Ike Davis early last year finally cleared the way for Lucas Duda to become the Mets’ starting first baseman. In 153 games played and 514 at-bats in 2014, Duda slashed .253/.359/.481, with 27 doubles, 30 home runs, and 92 RBI.
Lucas Duda’s challenge entering the 2015 season, therefore, was to either reaffirm or surpass that standard.
He appeared on his way. Duda slashed .325/.427/.488 in April, with two home runs and 12 RBI. He completed May no less promisingly, slashing .276/.366/.582, with nine doubles, seven home runs and 13 RBI. Translated, his first trimester yielded a .298 batting average and .535 slugging average, 16 doubles, nine home runs, and 25 RBI.
Both his and the Mets offensive fortunes then turned on a dime.
Duda’s particularly brutal month of June contributed to the team’s descent towards the bottom of most major National League offensive categories. For his part, Duda slashed a paltry .187/.312/.264, with four doubles, one home run, and eight RBI for the month.
Duda went from June 19 through July 8 without a home run, and continued struggling deep into the month, hitting just .178 for July, while posting an unsightly .260 OBP.
Far more bewildering, the Big Lebowski ended July slugging .489 on the strength of another brief power surge. Between July 25 and August 2, Duda mashed nine home runs in eight games. However, all that power only produced 12 RBI. Previously, nine of Duda’s first 12 home runs were solo shots.
A nagging back issue then sidelined The Dude for the better part of August. Of 28 scheduled games, Duda missed 15, and he missed the first six games of September as well. During that span, he batted .304 during his limited time on the field.
Duda returned to the lineup on September 8 and hit a mere .154 (6 for 39), with two doubles, one home run, and two RBI in 13 games through September 22.
Now for the good news…
Including Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss in Philadelphia, the Dude has gone 9 for his last 17 (.529) in six games since September 23, with seven runs scored, five doubles, five home runs, and 15 RBI.
Entering the last game of September, Duda’s season slash stands at .249/.356/.497, which is only incrementally higher from where he stood on August 2nd. But he now has 27 home runs for the season with 73 RBI, in what will amount to roughly 20 fewer games played than last year.
Above all, he’s finally starting to crush with men on base. And the Mets should be in great shape if Duda keeps this up heading into their first postseason appearance since 2006.