The 2012 Mets need Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to be healthy and productive in the middle of the order to have a successful season. Unfortunately, both of these players started off the year hitting poorly. Here were their numbers through April 13th:
ID – 1-23 with 9 Ks in 26 PA (34.6 K%)
LD – 3-25 with 9 Ks in 28 PA (32.1 K%)
The Mets were able to stay afloat thanks to surprisingly strong pitching and big starts from Josh Thole and David Wright, among others. Meanwhile, since April 14th, here are the numbers for the team’s two big lefty hitters:
ID – .188/.235/.375 with 13 Ks in 51 PA (25.5 K%)
LD – .333/.418/.500 with 12 Ks in 55 PA (21.8 K%)
Davis is suffering from the double whammy of an elevated K rate and a dismal average on balls in play. His BABIP in the last 13 games is .188 and it sits at .152 for the season. We know that Davis is an MLB-quality hitter and that a .152 OPS simply cannot last. Interestingly, Davis is performing better against LHP (.561 OPS) than he is RHP (.468 OPS), so sitting him some against lefties does not appear to be the right approach, as I thought earlier.
All players go through slumps during the year and this one by Davis is magnified by being at the start of the season. Ryan Braun, last year’s NL MVP, went through a 60-PA stretch early last year where he had a .193/.233/.386 line. The Brewers went 5-10 in that stretch. Both Braun and the Brewers ended the year in fine shape, as Braun notched a league-leading .994 OPS and the Brewers won 96 games.
On the positive side, Davis has fanned just once in his last 12 PA and seems to be making solid contact. Perhaps he will break out with a three-hit game in the near future.
Meanwhile, Duda has already broken out of his early-season slump thanks to a more-patient approach at the plate and a .412 BABIP. For the year, Duda now has a .306 BABIP, or more or less what we should expect from an MLB hitter. His .452 SLG is the 29th-best mark in the National League and marks him as a solid middle-of-the-order hitter.
What will be interesting to see going forward is if Duda can continue to lower his K%. In 347 PA last year, he had a 16.4 K%, a really nice rate for a young power hitter. This year it sits at 25.3 percent. If Duda can continue to lower his K% as the year progresses it will be an excellent sign for his continued growth as a hitter.
While Duda is again hitting with authority and showing that last year was no fluke, he is also showing that last year’s fielding numbers were not an aberration, either. In 364.1 innings in the OF last year (about 30 percent of a full season), Duda had a -12 DRS. This year in 170.1 innings, he has a -6 DRS. With 10 runs essentially equal to a win, his outfield defense is going to cost the Mets nearly four wins at this rate.
It should be mentioned that fielding numbers take longer than batting numbers to stabilize and it’s possible that Duda is not *this* bad in the outfield. But I think it’s fair to say that Duda is a poor outfielder and the only thing up for debate is if he’s going to be simply bad or the worst defensive outfielder in the majors.
Last offseason I lobbied for the Mets to trade either Davis or Duda because of concerns about Duda’s outfield defense. With Davis coming off an injury and Duda only having limited MLB success to his credit, perhaps the trade market wasn’t there for either player. But what we have seen in the early going in 2012 only confirms what we saw last year – that Duda is not an OF. It’s hard to be a productive player when you give away four wins on defense. Right now, Duda has a -0.3 fWAR, meaning he’s below replacement level overall.
I like both Davis and Duda. But it’s hard to imagine them both being on the team when the Mets are serious contenders for the division title.