Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lucas Duda Could Make First-Half History For The Mets

Lucas Duda and David Wright might share more than a high-five if Duda's power surge continues. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Lucas Duda has come a long way since making his major league debut under the tutelage of Jerry Manuel in 2010.  He's been a beleaguered outfielder that was sent down to the minors after every extended slump and he's also been a first baseman caught in a platoon with a player struggling to keep his batting average above the Mendoza Line.

But through it all, Duda has persevered.  Now, as the Mets' everyday first baseman, Duda has quietly put up some of the best first-half power numbers in franchise history.

You can laugh all you want at the statement in the previous paragraph, but it's true.  Let's take a look at all the players in Mets history who have produced 20 doubles, 15 homers and 50 RBI prior to the All-Star break.  As you can see from the chart below, there aren't many of them.

Player Split Year G PA GS 2B HR RBI
David Wright 1st Half 2008 94 432 94 24 17 70
Carlos Beltran 1st Half 2008 94 411 92 23 15 66
David Wright 1st Half 2006 87 386 87 22 20 74
David Wright 1st Half 2007 86 378 85 21 16 51
Bernard Gilkey 1st Half 1996 84 358 84 21 16 62
Robin Ventura 1st Half 1999 87 357 85 21 15 66
Howard Johnson 1st Half 1989 79 336 78 22 22 57
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/12/2014.

Only five players in club annals have managed to reach 20 doubles, 15 HR and 50 RBI before the midsummer hiatus, with David Wright producing three such seasons.  All five players went on to post incredible full seasons.

In Wright's three years achieving these first half numbers, he ended up averaging 41 doubles, 30 HR and 116 RBI per season.  The other four players also had productive full seasons, as Johnson (41 doubles, 36 HR, 101 RBI), Gilkey (44 doubles, 30 HR, 117 RBI), Ventura (38 doubles, 32 HR, 120 RBI) and Beltran (40 doubles, 27 HR, 112 RBI) put up some of the best full season extra-base hit and RBI totals in franchise history.

It should be noted that with two games to go before the 2014 All-Star break, Lucas Duda has amassed 20 doubles, 14 HR and 48 RBI.  That's right, Mets fans.  Duda is only a two-run blast away from joining this exclusive club.

When I first pondered this amazing feat immediately after Duda launched his 14th homer of the year last night, I was shot down by a gentleman on Twitter with the following tweet.

While it is true the Mets will have played 95 games by this year's All-Star break, allowing for players to pile up on cumulative stats, Duda began the season as a part-timer, sharing first base duties with the now-departed Ike Davis.  And since Davis' trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Duda has sacrificed occasional playing time to two first basemen who swing the bat from the right side of the plate.

Before his demotion to AAA-Las Vegas, Josh Satin was given seven starts at first base.  In addition, Eric Campbell has been penciled into the starting lineup ten times since his call-up from Vegas in early May.  Between Davis, Satin and Campbell, Duda has started 22 games on the Mets bench.  That's nearly 100 plate appearances Duda hasn't gotten this season.

Looking at the chart above, all five players in the 20 double, 15 HR, 50 RBI club stepped up to the plate at least 336 times before the All-Star break.  With two games left before this year's break, Duda has just 315 plate appearances.  Unless the Mets have a few 20-inning marathons against the Marlins this weekend, Duda will have come to bat fewer times than any of the members of the 20/15/50 club did in their historic campaigns, even with the All-Star Game being played later in the season than it has in the past.  All Duda needs is one homer and two RBI and he will have joined Johnson, Gilkey, Ventura, Beltran and Wright, despite the Fab Five needing more plate appearances to earn a spot in this exclusive club.

Say what you want about Lucas Duda.  He's a clumsy oaf.  He's a lousy interview.  He's never produced over a full season.  Depending on who you ask, all of those things might be true.  But with just one well-timed blast (and a teammate on the bases when said blast occurs), it will also be true that Lucas Duda will have engineered one of the most productive first halves with the bat in franchise history.

All this from a player who wasn't even guaranteed an everyday job at the beginning of the season.  History has a strange way of finding Mets players when they least expect it.


Matthew Kayser said...

This is great stuff! This is my first time checking out your site, and I love how you did this. You actually used DATA to make a statement about a player! That is rare among baseball fans. But yes, Duda is having an historic year. It's enough to make me VERY glad that the Mets chose him over Ike.

Thanks again for taking the time to research and then post. I'll be back here soon!

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

I'd say "research" is my middle name, but my parents never gave me a middle name...

Duda is 28 years old, so he's in the early stages of his prime baseball years. If this a portent of things to come, he'll make Mets fans say "Ike who?"

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Eric said...

I almost jumped on someone a few weeks back who claimed Duda was having the best offensive season on the Mets by far. This was at the same time both Murphy AND Wright were leading the league in hits, and before Juan's second DL stint. It just didn't seem to pass the eye test. But then I looked at the stats and my mind was blown. I was definitely in the Duda over Davis camp, but had actually been underwhelmed by Duda's production. Consider me whelmed now.