Mets fans had high expectations for Lucas Duda heading into the season. He did not produce much offensively right out of the gate but in his last five starts, Duda has recorded a two-hit game three times. While his bat seems to be heating up, strikeouts have been a problem here in the early going. Duda has a 30.6 K%, compared to a 16.4 mark in the category a season ago. His 15 strikeouts are tied for the 11th-most in baseball.
In each of his three stints in New York, Duda has gotten off to a slow start. In fact, he might consider skipping the first 30 PA of each year. Here is the year-by-year breakdown of his tough beginnings:
That works out to a .077/.170/.179 mark. The HR this year have his SLG elevated from previous beginnings, but his .120 AVG and .179 OBP fit right in with his other poor starts. In his last five games, Duda has a .762 OPS so hopefully better times are ahead. However, strikeouts are still an issue. In his last 21 ABs, he’s whiffed six times.
THOLE LOOKS TO JOIN ELITE GROUP – During their 50 year history, the Mets have had surprisingly good catchers. However, only two of them have ever posted a .300 AVG in a season in which they logged at least 300 ABs. Mike Piazza of course is one of them but do you know who the other one is? It’s not Todd Hundley – he topped out at .280 in 1995. It wasn’t Gary Carter, whose .281 in 1985 was his best for the Mets. John Stearns’ best was the .293 he hit in 1982. And it wasn’t Jerry Grote, who peaked at .295 in 1975 (what is it with Mets catchers and years ending in “5” anyway?).
Old pal Paul Lo Duca is the only other Mets backstop to top .300, as he posted a .318 mark in his All-Star season of 2006.
Meanwhile Josh Thole, who has gotten off to slow starts in the past, has been on fire in the early part of 2012. He has a .355 AVG and a .925 OPS after 11 games and 38 PA. Thole has reached base safely in the team’s first 11 games and has just three strikeouts so far this season.
LEFTY OUTPERFORMS PERIPHERALS – In 2010 and 2011, Jonathon Niese has posted strong xFIPs but his ERAs have not been as good. Last year he had a 3.28 xFIP but a 4.40 ERA. This year after two games, Niese has a 3.24 xFIP and a 2.13 ERA.
Always a pretty good ground ball pitcher, Niese checks in with a 66.7 GB% here in the early going. That, combined with only allowing two line drives in 12.2 IP, has led to a measley .212 BABIP for Niese, which explains how he is outperforming his xFIP.
Here in the early going, Niese is throwing more cutters than he did a season ago and is having success with the pitch. RHB have a .439 OPS against Niese after 36 PA. Next up for the lefty is the Giants, who have really struggled this year versus LHP. In 111 PA against southpaws, the Giants have a .505 OPS. Niese should have a good chance to go to 3-0 when he squares off against Barry Zito tonight.
IS BAY STRUGGLING? – Most people look at Jason Bay’s .211 AVG and 13 Ks and conclude that he is off to a terrible start. However, his OPS+ is 101 or slightly above average. Ideally, your left fielder is one of your top hitters and Bay has not filled that role for the Mets. But his .717 OPS is tied with Martin Prado for 13th-best among LF in the majors. As bad as Bay seems, he’s been more productive than Logan Morrison (.643 OPS), Matt Holliday (.619), Alex Gordon (.479) and a host of other left fielders so far this season.
EARLY LOOK AT NEW DIMENSIONS – One of the big unknowns for the Mets this year was how Citi Field would play with the fences moved in. April is traditionally a poor month for offense but if we compare how Citi plays to the rest of the league’s parks, we see that even for April, offense has not been abundant. According to the ESPN Park Factors, Citi Field is the second-worst park for offense in the majors, with a 0.623 run factor. It’s slightly better for homers, as it ranks 26th with a 0.538 HR factor.
Here are the splits for Mets batters after 12 games, divided evenly between home and road contests:
H – .251/.338/.382 in 220 PA with 18 runs scored and 4 HR
R – .266/.332/.425 in 231 PA with 27 runs scored and 8 HR
And here are the pitching numbers:
H – .231/.332/.352 in 233 PA with 20 runs allowed and 3 HR
R – .295/.333/.440 in 229 PA with 34 runs allowed and 5 HR