By Thomas J. Harrigan, Contributing Writer, The Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Remember when Lucas Duda versus Ike Davis was a thing?
Davis, at one point a far more heralded prospect, and Duda battled for the New York Mets’ first base job during spring training, and the Mets chose Duda. For once, they made the right decision. The gap between the two just keeps getting wider.
Davis is now part of a three-man platoon at first base for the Pittsburgh Pirates with Gaby Sanchez and former third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who had to be moved from the hot corner because he was becoming a hazard for fans on the first-base line.
Davis has eight homers and 39 RBI in 296 at-bats this season. Duda has 12 homers and 27 RBI … since July 22.
Unlike Houston Astros DH Chris Carter, another hitter who has gone on an insane tear recently, Duda was actually having a very good season before the hot streak.
Prior to July 22, he was on pace to hit .258 with 39 doubles, 25 homers, 87 RBI, 67 runs and an .829 OPS.
After going 3-for-5 with two homers and five RBI Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Duda is now hitting .260 with 26 homers, 76 RBI, 61 runs and an .862 OPS. He rates as the 14th best first baseman and 60th overall player in Yahoo fantasy leagues.
Duda’s numbers are strikingly similar to Edwin Encarnacion’s — .267, 27 homers, 73 RBI, 60 runs — and he has only 45 more at-bats than the Toronto Blue Jays slugger.
The Mets first baseman’s batted ball breakdown (19.3 percent LD, 33.4 percent GB, 48.7 percent FB, 6.7 percent IFFB) is nearly identical to what he put up last season (19.8 percent LD, 31.8 percent GB, 48.4 percent FB, 7.6 percent IFFB), but he’s shaved his strikeout rate from 26.6 percent to 21.4 percent. So while his rates are the same, he’s put more balls into play overall.
He’s also raised his HR/FB from 14.3 percent to 17.4 percent. While that doesn’t seem like a large increase, it matters because he’s hit so many more fly balls per plate appearance than he did last season. His home run rate (HR/PA) has increased from 3.9 percent to 5.6 percent.
Duda has been more aggressive this season, taking a cut at the first pitch in 21.3 percent of his plate appearances. That’s an increase from 16.5 percent over the past two seasons.
He’s batted .375 with four homers on the first pitch this season and he’s hit .379 with another four homers with a 1-0 count.
Duda has increased his contact rate on pitches in the strike zone from 80.6 percent in 2013 to 87.4 percent this year. Since July 22, he’s made contact on 90.9 percent of swings on those pitches.
He’s hit at least four home runs in four of the five months this season and at least five in each of the last three.
Duda may go cold again like he did when he went 11-for-54 (.204) with one home from Aug. 2-17, but he’s now someone who should be trusted even through his slumps.
While he still can’t hit lefties (.154/.250/.205), Duda has become one of the most feared sluggers in baseball against righties.