What’s driving Lucas Duda’s surge? It’s not BABIP

DudaWednesday night’s homer was just the latest piece of good news for Lucas Duda in his month-long hot streak. In his last 27 games, Duda has a .291/.410/.628 line, good for a 1.038 OPS. Perhaps the most interesting thing of all is that while this is outstanding production, it’s been compiled with just a .306 BABIP. Typically, non-stars would need a BABIP of around .375 or more to produce such good hitting numbers. For a point of comparison, recently-activated Juan Lagares has a .373 BABIP and has a .767 OPS.

So, what’s gotten into Duda?

Plate discipline has played a huge role in this surge. After opening the season with 13 BB and 36 Ks in his first 151 PA, Duda has posted 17 BB and 19 Ks in his last 105 trips to the plate. That’s a 16.2 BB%, compared to the 8.6 walk rate with which he began the season. The strikeout rate has not been quite as drastic (23.8% vs. 18.1) but it’s also moved in a positive direction.

In the beginning of the year, Duda was positively Ike Davis-like with his propensity to chase pitches a foot or more out of the strike zone. While his strikeouts were coming in bunches on breaking balls that he couldn’t reach with a 10-foot pole, Duda’s real problem at the beginning of the year was making contact on pitches inside the strike zone.

In April, Duda, swung at 63.2% of the pitches he saw in the strike zone and had a contact rate of 82.7% on such pitches. Fast forward to June and Duda is swinging at fewer pitches but making better contact. His Z-Swing% is 59.8 but his Z-Contact% checks in at 92.1. Let’s put some of these numbers in perspective. Just among qualified first basemen, Duda’s Z-Contact% in April ranked 24th but his rate in June ranks second.

Now we just have to see if this is sustainable. Typically, Contact% numbers stabilize fairly quickly, around 100 PA. But that’s overall contact numbers and what we are looking at is specifically Z-Contact% so it’s possible that’s a different beast entirely. Plus, we’ve seen a pretty big swing in these numbers from April to June, making things even murkier.

So, as frustrating as it is to watch Duda flail helplessly at breaking balls out of the strike zone, the real key is to see how he’s doing on pitches inside the zone. If the swings and misses are few and far between on the pitches over the plate, Duda has a chance to keep this strong production going forward. And it’s not like what he’s doing is completely out of character, either. In 2011, Duda had a 137 OPS+ and so far in 2014, he has a 133 OPS+.

And our old pal Davis has a 109 OPS+ for the Pirates.

7 comments for “What’s driving Lucas Duda’s surge? It’s not BABIP

  1. Name
    June 26, 2014 at 10:35 am

    I’ve been meaning to mention that Lucas seems to be catching on much better to inside pitches and the stats support my observation. Earlier in the season, when pitchers kept pounding him in, he was getting beat most of the time. Well, unlike Ike Davis who refuses to adapt, Lucas has done just that and recognized that pitchers are throwing inside and he is now ready for them pounding the ball for XBHs.

    He probably needs to continue hitting well for a few more months to get more of his detractors on board.

    • Patrick Albanesius
      June 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      Those numbers are impressive, but I’m in agreement that Duda will have to keep this up a little longer to make me believe he’s more than a stop-gap.

  2. Jerry Grote
    June 26, 2014 at 11:47 am

    might be a bit much to find this out … but what has been the breakdown of RHP/LHP over that last 100 ABs?

    Clearly a 1.038 OPS is great no matter. I wonder how much of it is fueled by splits.


    • June 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      That would take time to find out the exact numbers. But I do know that the Mets have faced a huge number of righty starters recently. That’s why playing time for Campbell has been so sporadic.

      It may not be a full-blown platoon, but Duda will be sitting against a lot of LH starters. Perhaps the consistent playing time while the Mets see all of these righties has contributed to him being locked in at the plate?

    • Name
      June 26, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      Pretty much all of it is fueled by splits.
      Duda-20 out of last 107 PA against lefties-18.7%

      And he’s just 1-15 with 4 walks and 1 HBP and 9 k’s in this last 20 with the 1 being the HR yesterday off Brad Mills.
      So if i did the math correctly, thats .067/.300/.267

      Obviously very prone the the strikeout against lefties, but at least he’s still getting on base decently with walks.

      And doing some more extrapolation, that means he has around an extrodinary 1.146 OPS against righties during this period

      And comparing his lefty rate vs the league:
      NL average for the year is 24.1%

      Comparing him to some other lefties:
      Heyward, a lefty with noticeable splits but who plays everyday-25.2%
      Matt Adams, has noticeable splits and misses some lefties-23%
      Freeman, a lefty who has no splits-29% (which reinforces the fact that LOOGYs are overvalued)
      Rizzo, Laroche- around 25%

  3. Metsense
    June 27, 2014 at 9:41 am

    It is the manager’s job to put his players in a position to succeed. Vs lefthanders Duda has a 522 OPS and Campbell has a 948 OPS. It is the best reason to keep the platoon. TC struggles with a platoon. He does not believe in them yet he has no problem bringing in a LOOGY to get a platoon advantage.
    A platoon would also keep both players “sharp”. “Sharp” is important to TC, that is why Abreu played last night over CY who had hit three homeruns in the previous two games. Had CY not done that he would have been in the starting lineup because ” he needs to play to get on track”.
    Finally, when Duda plays, he should not bat cleanup because he doesn’t need the pressure but when the rookie Campbell plays he is depressurized and bats fourth.
    I am glad that Duda is having a good season, that Campbell is pounding lefties, and that CY is finally contributing to the team. I see this in spite of TC who seems to place his players in the worst position to succeed.

    • Patrick Albanesius
      June 27, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Also, good point made today on Metsblog about how CY sits way more after a productive game, than he does after a non-productive game. TC-haters, have at it!

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