If the Mets are going to defeat the Cubs in the upcoming NLCS, they will need to get contributions from Lucas Duda and David Wright. This middle-of-the-order duo combined to go 3-for-34 against the Dodgers. Is there hope for a rebound?
Let’s start with Duda, who went 2-for-18 with 11 strikeouts against Dodger pitching. Assuming he’s already been tested for Valley Fever, we’ll break down his approach and the Dodger gameplan against him and look for a glimmer of hope going forward.
In the 2015 regular season, Duda saw fastballs 55 percent of the time. Against the Dodgers, this dropped to 33 percent. At the same time, his fastball swing percentage went from 43 percent to 15 percent, indicating he might have been too selective with his minimal opportunities. However, only half of those fastballs were strikes — meaning Dodger pitchers were often using them as ‘show-me’ pitches.
Fewer fastballs meant more breaking pitches for Duda. Duda came into the series with a high whiff percentage against breaking balls, and it went up against L.A. Those breaking balls were thrown mostly low and away and only 16 percent were strikes. Yet, Duda swung 30 percent of the time, so he was expanding the zone against the breaking ball.
The Dodgers clearly decided to stay away from Duda by not throwing him a lot of strikes. Unfortunately, Duda had trouble pulling the trigger against the fastballs he did get in the strike zone and fouled off too many of those he offered at.
He compounded his troubles by chasing too many breaking balls outside of the zone. The Mets need more patience from their slugging first baseman.
When Duda did make contact, the ball was hit mostly up the middle, which is one good sign. There is no reason to expect that the Cubs pitchers will approach him any differently than L.A. did, so it will be up to him to adjust. He has to be more patient and wait for fastballs he can drive up the middle. Sounds simple, but Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester are control artists who will make it easier said than done.
Mets captain David Wright was 1-for-16 against the Dodgers with seven strikeouts, but he did manage five walks. Like Duda, Wright normally has a higher-than-average whiff percentage against breaking balls. He too saw fewer fastballs, but the drop-off was not as dramatic as it was for Duda.
In contrast to Duda, Wright swung more often at the fastballs he did see by about 20 percent. He was very aggressive on fastballs in the zone, especially on the first pitch. Unfortunately, his whiff rate on the fastball doubled at the same time. Wright seemed overmatched by fastballs throughout the series, either missing or making weak contact in the air.
Despite seeing more breaking pitches, Wright did not go fishing at a higher rate. However, when he did he make contact on breaking pitches, he rolled over too many on the outside half of the plate, keeping Dodger shortstops busy.
Late on the fastball and out in front of the breaking ball is not a recipe for success. Wright certainly seems stuck in-between despite decent plate discipline.
The results suggest Wright is pressing at the plate and trying to do too much. A more sinister theory would be to question whether his tank is empty after everything he has been through, or whether his back is an issue. Luckily, Wright’s defense suggests he is healthy. He made a beautiful lunging catch on a foul ball in the stands in Game 5, and of course a leaping grab in Game 3 to put an end to Matt Harvey’s disastrous second inning and keep the Mets in the game.
It’s easy to forget that when the playoffs arrive the quality of pitching goes up. Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen are not going to make your job easy as a hitter. In Wright’s case he appeared to have a solid game plan, but he did not execute.
His big two-RBI hit in Game 1 was a result of taking a 96-mph fastball up the middle with a short stroke. If he can maintain his plate discipline and continue to sit on fastballs, while at the same time shortening his stroke and going up the middle or the other way, he will hopefully turn his postseason around.
No two slumps are created equal. In the case of Duda, you have to hope he can adjust his approach and put good swings on better pitches.
Wright needs to stick to the program, but not try to do too much when he gets his pitch.
Both players appear a bit tight, but one solid hit can provide a jumpstart for such talented hitters. The NLCS is a clean slate, and the Mets will be looking for big things from Duda and Wright against the Cubs.