The old guard of baseball analysts love to cite a player’s confidence as an explanation of his recent performance. When a player is going well, it’s because he’s confident; and when he’s struggling, he lacks confidence.
The fact that this still passes for legitimate baseball analysis in the year 2013 is confounding and a little sad.
As I wrote some months ago, clustering is a perfectly natural occurrence in any statistical accumulation, and so in baseball when a player goes through streaks, it’s not because his confidence is high or low, it’s because of random luck. The confidence factor is the effect of success or failure, not the cause of it.
For months all that was repeated by pundits, specifically Bob Ojeda, was that Lucas Duda was too passive at the plate and was unconfident, and that is why he was struggling offensively. Using traditional stats, Duda was struggling; he had a .235 batting average, 11 home runs and 29 RBIs in 68 games before being sent down.
Yet another failure of the old way of thinking.
Duda was not having a bad season at the plate, in fact, he was quite good. His .235/.353/.438/.791 line was more than respectable. In fact, his 124 wRC+, .204 isolated slugging percentage, and .347 weighted On Base Average in the first half, are similar to the numbers posted by Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce.
If you told me before the season that Duda would produce at Jay Bruce levels over the first half of the season I’d tell you that you were crazy. I’d say you were even crazier if you said that he would be sent down for two months despite that.
Even now that Duda is back and producing fairly well, virtually every game a discussion is had about how he is too passive at the plate.
This season Duda has swung at 60.2 percent of pitches thrown to him that were in the strike zone, a few percentage points below the league average of 65.4 percent. He has also swung at 22.8 percent of pitches thrown to him outside of the strike zone, well below the league average of 30.8 percent.
While he does allow more looking strikes to go by than the average hitter, his propensity to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone more than makes up for that.
This perceived weakness in Duda’s game actually turns out to be a strength when you consider that he sees an average of 4.25 pitches per plate appearances.
Driving up pitch counts and drawing walks are not skills that should be taken for granted, yet for some reason, Duda constantly finds himself being unfairly criticized for lack of production from the old guard because he has a low batting average and not many RBIs.
Apparently nobody has told these people that those using those stats to evaluate a player are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
I’d take Duda playing first base over Daniel Murphy any day of the week, because even though Murphy has the shiny .282 batting average and 67 RBIs, Duda would be a far more productive player.
It wouldn’t even be close.
The only confidence problem Duda has are the misinformed pundits perpetrating nonsense.
Joe Vasile is a play by play announcer for Widener Pride football and the host of ‘Ball Four with Joe Vasile’ on 91.3 WTSR in Trenton, airing Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Follow him on twitter at @JoeVasilePBP and visit his website.