Comparing Lucas Duda and the rest of the Mets’ outfielders

During Spring Training Mets fans hoped that the projected outfield wouldn’t be as bad as the doomsayers had predicted. “Worst outfield ever” was a common theme parroted by numerous media outlets. The outfield was definitely lacking in talent, but there was no way it could be that bad. Right?

As it turns out, the Mets outfield has been very bad this season. To find out just how bad, we’ll examine a few statistics from FanGraphs. However, as Mets360′s own Brian Joura discussed earlier this week, Mets starting left fielder Lucas Duda is quietly putting together a solid if unspectacular year. He really doesn’t deserve to be lumped into the travesty that is the 2013 Mets outfield.

For this exercise, we’ll key in on a few statistics for both the Mets outfield as a whole and Duda specifically. All statistics are up-to-date through 6/1/2013. Note that “rank” for the Mets outfield is against all MLB outfields while for Duda it is against all MLB left fielders only. Also, it’s still pretty early in the season so small sample size applies here. First up is On-base Plus Slugging (OPS).

OPS Mets OF Duda
Value .683 .810
Rank 27th 13th

The Mets outfield as a collective are ahead of only the Nationals, Twins, and Marlins in OPS. Duda, on the other hand, is 13th among all MLB left fielders so far this season. That’s actually pretty incredible considering how down on Duda most Mets fans have become. Next up is Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA).

wOBA Mets OF Duda
Value .300 .351
Rank 27th 14th

Essentially, wOBA is a catchall offensive statistic that more accurately captures a hitter’s offensive production than OPS. Here again we see the Mets outfield right at the bottom of the MLB and above the same three teams. Likewise, Duda is right in the middle of the pack for left fielders. Next we look at FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR).

fWAR Mets OF Duda
Value -0.1 0.2
Rank 28th 23rd

Again, the Mets collective is right at the bottom and above only the Twins and the Astros. Duda is near the bottom as well at 23rd. However, note that fWAR takes defense into account. While we all wish that Duda could magically become at least an average defensive left fielder, that simply will never happen. He’s dead last in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) among left fielders, which is a testament to his offensive output thus far. In fact, Duda is top ten among left fielders when considering just the offensive aspects that make up fWAR.

This is a small subset of statistics but imagine what the Mets collective outfield performance would look like if Duda’s numbers were taken out of the equation (super incredibly bad?). This is all to say that the Mets outfield, as a whole, is actually meeting expectations. In this case, that’s a bad thing. The problem lies in the way forward. It’s clear that the Mets can live and maybe even thrive with Duda in left field, but right field and center field are going to need massive upgrades for that to work.

Of course, that’s pretty obvious to even the most casual Mets fan. The trick is finding the players that represent those upgrades. There are no upper level outfield prospects on the horizon, at least none that are relatively close, so where does Sandy Alderson snag these upgrades? Well, it will have to be a combination of smart drafting, trading, and free agent signings. Easier said than done, but Alderson is going to have to start dipping into the Mets assets this off-season to make it happen. The large amount of money coming off of the books and the organizational pitching depth could go a long way to shore up the outfield woes, and Alderson will need to do so soon if there is a realistic chance that this team will be competitive sooner rather than later.

15 comments for “Comparing Lucas Duda and the rest of the Mets’ outfielders

  1. June 3, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Your article makes the point that Duda can be viewed as an average major league outfielder IF all defensive considerations are abandoned. The problem is that we all know that Duda is an absurdly poor outfielder in every category- range, arm, instincts. If you have an average offensive OFer combined with horrid defensive skills then IMHO you have a well below average outfielder.
    I’ve never understand why the Mets haven’t traded him to a team that could use him at 1b and/or DH while bringing back a player who can catch a fly ball in LF.

    • June 3, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      The point is really, I guess, that Duda (at this point) is the least of the Mets outfield problems. With actual major league players in CF and RF, his short comings may not be so glaring. Of course, that’s not to say they shouldn’t update LF if they have the opportunity.

  2. Jim OMalley
    June 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

    What we will need is a plus-plus centerfielder. By that I mean a plus defender and a plus offensive contributor. That would reduce the zone Duda has to cover and add on the offensive contributions. If they could also do the same in right, then that would also reduce the total area Duda is responsible for defensively. Course that means a lot of salary/year commitments in the FA market.

    • za
      June 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Duda is not an outfielder, period. He’s dead last at his position in the Majors and has given opponents so many extra outs. We will not be a competitive team with him out there.

      • za
        June 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

        Dead last defensively *

  3. Metsense
    June 3, 2013 at 8:36 am

    If he was at 1B, he would be 16th in wOBA, 12th in OPS, and have a higher fWAR because he can play the position better than LF. Lucas is not a “cornerstone” player but neither is Ike. Both are power hitters that could slot 6th in a batting order. Both on the same team is folly.
    Duda’s fWAR value takes too much of a hit with him in the OF. The front office needs to trade either one sometime before 2014.
    In 2013, Duda is the best option for LF and I give him credit for playing out of position. Duda is making the most of a bad situation and bad front office decision.
    As for the rest of the OF, Marlon Byrd is surprisingly putting up average NL numbers for a RF.
    NL Avg 6 HR, 24 RBI, .742 OPS Byrd 6 HR, 25 RBI .751 OPS. He should not be platooned because vs RHP he has the same OPS as Valdespin (.666 OPS) and better than Baxter (.625 OPS)vs RHP.
    Your concluding paragraph was right on Rob.

    • June 3, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      I agree that he would probably play the 1B better than the OF, but I don’t think it would be much better. The team might be able to live with him there, though. At the very least, Duda’s offense minus his defense would still provide much more value than what they’re getting out of Ike right now.

  4. Trey
    June 3, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Let’s be honest here — Duda sucks. He is a horrible defender who has a putrid batting average with runners in scoring position. He is nothing more than a clone of Adam Dunn without the 40 HR a year power. He is an below average player and would never be a main component of a championship team. His ceiling is that of a part-time DH on an American League team.

  5. Name
    June 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

    How does the OF compare to last year’s OF at this point? I think most of the optimism was based around the fact that the OF couldn’t possibly be worse than last year, though it seems from my memory and the eye test it has been around the same.

    • June 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Through the first half of last year, the Mets outfield had a .322 wOBA (20th), a .739 OPS (21st), and a 2.3 fWAR (26th, and keep in mind this includes about a month and a half more games played). So the outfield has in fact actually been worse than last year, which is really incredible.

  6. Doug
    June 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    “Both [Duda and Davis] on the same team is folly.” <– This

    • Jerry Grote
      June 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      And batting essentially the same guy twice in a row (Duda/Davis) directly after David Wright seems lunacy.

      … here’s a thought … any reason why Lucas Duda, he of the .360+ OBP and an inability to drive in runs anyways … isn’t batting 1st, 2nd or 3rd, ahead of David Wright and Daniel Murphy? I mean, beyond the obvious lack of leadership and creative thought coming from our illustrious manager.

      • June 3, 2013 at 10:38 pm

        It’s a fair question, but it’s not uncommon I find myself scratching my head at some of Collins’ decisions.

    • June 3, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      At this point, I think we can all agree with that sentiment. I’d argue, however, that Ike HAS shown flashes of being a player that is leagues better than Duda. Where that player went, I don’t know.

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