One of the unsung stars of the early going for the Mets has been the offensive production of Lucas Duda. Slowed by an injury in Spring Training, Duda has also suffered somewhat from management’s refusal to solve the three-headed first baseman issue. But when he’s got on the field, Duda has been a productive offensive player.
Among those with at least 20 PA, Duda leads the Mets with a 133 OPS+. We’ve seen a much more aggressive Duda at the plate here in the early going. After a 38.5 Swing% last year, Duda currently sports a 45.8 Swing%, which would be a career high. His current best mark is the 44.0 rate he posted in 2011, when he notched a 137 OPS+. Perhaps the most encouraging thing is that Duda is swinging at more strikes. After swinging at pitches in the strike zone 58.9% in 2013, so far this season his Z-Swing% is 65.5, easily a career-best.
Not only is Duda swinging more often, he’s also making more contact. He has a 75.0 Contact%, up from 71.5 a season ago. Not unsurprisingly, this means his walk rate has taken a hit. But in return, Duda has a higher AVG and a higher SLG and his OBP is nearly identical to what it was a season ago. Right now, that’s a tradeoff that everyone on the club is happy to make.
A FAMILIAR REFRAIN – In both the offseason and Spring Training, it appeared that Jeurys Familia was making some strides harnessing his control. But here in the early going he once again is being hurt by allowing too many walks. In 6.2 IP, Familia has surrendered 5 BB. That’s led to a 1.950 WHIP and a 4.85 ERA. Ordinarily, those numbers would get the fans upset, but right now they are too busy shaking their heads over the dismal performance of the team’s lefty relievers. Still, Familia will have to turn things around quickly if he hopes to remain in the majors much longer.
CAPTAIN FAST START – Injuries at the major league level meant an early promotion for Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is making the most of his shot with the Mets. Nieuwenhuis has a .967 OPS, which is even more impressive when you factor in his 30.0 K%. But a hot start in the majors is nothing new for Nieuwenhuis. He began his major league career in 2012 with a .920 OPS in his first 18 games, thanks to a .462 BABIP. In his final 73 games that season, Nieuwenhuis posted a .629 OPS.
OK UMP, GIVE ME A NEW BALL, QUICK – The pitching for the Mets has been disappointing early on and nowhere is that more evident than in HR allowed. Mets pitchers rank last in the National League with 23 homers. After the debacle in Anaheim, Bartolo Colon leads the way with six gopher balls. Dillon Gee is right on his heels with five long balls surrendered. And it’s not just the starters, as the team’s relievers have allowed 6 HR in 48.1 IP, with half of those given up by closer Jose Valverde.
JUST WIN, BABY – The Mets are 3-0 this year when backup catcher Anthony Recker starts. While Travis d’Arnuad has gotten off to a slow start at the plate, Recker is swinging a very hot bat. But the team winning with Recker behind the plate is nothing new. Last year the Mets were 20-14 in games where he started. That’s a .588 winning percentage, one that works out to a 95-win season. Meanwhile, when someone besides Recker was the starting catcher in 2013, the Mets were just 54-74, a .421 winning percentage. Let’s hope that Terry Collins gets Recker some more playing time as long as d’Arnaud’s struggling here in the early going, unlike what he did a season ago with John Buck.
FARE THEE WELL, MR. LANNAN – Well, that didn’t take long. The Mets pulled the plug on the experiment of trying to convert John Lannan into a reliever, simply because he threw with his left hand. Since the Alderson-Collins regime took over prior to the start of the 2011 season, the Mets have had 20 “seasons” of lefties in the bullpen. Of those, 16 have posted an ERA of 3.71 or above, meaning they were below-average.
The four lefty relievers who put up solid seasons combined for 27.1 innings pitched.
So, by all means, please keep giving us more of Tim Byrdak, Robert Carson, Aaron Laffey, Pat Misch, Garrett Olson and Scott Rice. Who cares if they are ineffective, pitch the least amount of innings on the team and contribute to the burnout of the other relievers? They throw with their left hand, which makes them invaluable and above scrutiny.