Mets Preach Patience, And Practice It Too
Added by Guy Kipp on April 11, 2013.
Lucas Duda is tops in the NL at leaving bad pitches. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
When it comes to the 2013 Mets, patience is a virtue.
Now, while that might sound like the boilerplate from a marketing staff desperate to convince Mets fans to just hang in there through one more depressing, sub-.500 season before all their dreams can finally start to come true in 2014, in this case, it’s actually about more than that.
During Wednesday night’s 7-3 Phillies victory over the Mets (one that confirmed that—after that game and one in Citi Field last September—Jeremy Hefner should be kept far, far away from the Phillies for the rest of his career), SNY posted a graphic showing the top five batters in the National League at laying off bad pitches. In other words, batters with the lowest percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone.
Three of the top five were Mets: Lucas Duda was No. 1, with under 11%. Ruben Tejada came in second, also with less than 11%, and David Wright was No. 5, with about 15%. And frankly, maybe you don’t want David Wright ranking too high on that list, because if he takes a hack at a bad pitch once in awhile in the name of keeping an at-bat with runners on base alive, that’s not always a bad thing.
Tejada’s ability to take pitches, foul off two-strike servings and extend at-bats into perpetuity is legendary, and suggests that, even while his batting average flounders in the low .200s for the moment, the shortstop might still be the best choice to bat leadoff.
But Duda’s presence at the top of the list (in a very young season) does at least suggest that he’s continuing to develop as a hitter and that he has at least some semblance of a plan at the plate. Although Duda didn’t have an especially good 2012 season (15 HR, 57 RBI, .239 BA), his offense wasn’t so terrible that it merited his temporary mid-season demotion to Triple-A, especially given the utter torpor that befell almost the entire lineup for excruciating stretches in the second half.
Duda’s demotion seemed as much about the notion that, unless he’s really slugging the ball with great consistency, the Mets didn’t feel like they could afford to carry his defensive deficiencies in right field while he was struggling at the plate. This year, they’ve moved Duda to left field, where he’s continued to, uh, “battle,” as Art Howe used to say.
It was interesting to hear that, when Ike Davis was given the night off against lefty Cliff Lee on Tuesday, Justin Turner got the start at first base and Terry Collins kept Duda in left field, rather than throwing him a bone and giving him a start at first base, Duda’s “natural” position, such as it were, because Collins didn’t want Duda to get his hopes up about playing a position he will rarely get the chance to man this season.
But Duda launched two mammoth home runs in the 7-3 loss in Philadelphia, and has a .308/.486/.731 breakdown through his first nine games, on the heels of a Spring Training which he finished strongly.
And, don’t forget, Duda was the best hitter on the team in the second half of the 2011 season, with a .546 slugging percentage and 25 extra-base hits in his 64 games after the All-Star break.