The strangeness of Lucas Duda’s season may lead to a difficult decision
The strangeness of Lucas Duda’s season has only continued with each passing day.
In looking at his overall line, one might consider Duda to be a consistent power threat capable of complementing any big league lineup.
After all, he has a .455 slugging percentage to go along with a .344 on-base percentage thanks to his 30 doubles and 22 home runs in 520 plate appearances, not terribly off his marks from his breakout campaign from a year ago.
But not all is as they seem with Duda, who is mired in an 6-for-39 slump in 13 games since returning from the disabled list on September 8 against the Nationals, with three of those six hits going for extra-bases.
He does have a home run since returning from the disabled list, but it’s his only home run since August 2 against the Nationals – he went a total of 66 at-bats without recording a home run between August 2 and September 18.
Of course, Duda hit nine home runs in an eight-game span between July 25 and August 2 and hit six home runs in a span of seven games between May 21 and May 29. But he’s only hit six home runs outside of that combined 15-game stretch this season.
In those 15 games, Duda hit .377 with 15 home runs and 21 RBI. In his other 111 games this season, Duda has hit only .220 with seven home runs and 37 RBI.
The concerning part about this most recent skid is the fact he’s making more contact and striking out less than he has over the course of the season, but is not hitting the ball with any sort of authority. He’s getting under everything and hitting very insignificant flyballs with next to no production out of them.
His power potential is and always will be tempting enough to keep him planted in the middle of the Mets order, and he does have an .870 OPS out of the cleanup spot in the lineup in 2015. And he is by far the best first baseman on the team right now too.
But in the end, the valleys seem to be steeper than the peaks are high for Duda this season, and the Mets are going to be faced with a difficult choice if they can’t solve this mystery with Duda in short order.
They could always consider a regular platoon with Duda, using Michael Cuddyer against left-handed pitching. But Duda has hit left-handers better than right-handers in 2015, so that may not solve the problem. And this continually exposes Curtis Granderson to left-handed pitching, something which has resulted in next to no production in 2015.
They could always relegate Duda to the bench and go with a platoon of Cuddyer and Daniel Murphy at first. That would get Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson into the lineup and on the field more frequently, and at least with Uribe, would shore up the middle infield defense drastically.
Terry Collins has hinted Duda’s playing time was in jeopardy on a couple of occasions this year, so it’s clearly an option they’d consider if that’s what it comes to.
But that would be a last resort, and hardly an ideal result. In the end, the Mets need Duda to resemble the player he was in those two short spans earlier in 2015, preferably starting now as the stakes are getting higher.