Will 2013 Be The Summer of Lucas Duda ?

 
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Lucas Duda is one very large enigma to Mets fans. We see a strapping young man who stands 6’4” 250+ lbs and wonder, when will it all come together for Duda, when will we see 30+ HR’s and 90+ RBI. Well at 27 years old if it doesn’t come this year it mostly likely will never happen for Duda.

27 years of age is a great age to be unless you are an unproven big league baseball player. It’s an age where you are hitting your playing prime, where if you are a quality baseball player, everything comes together, it all starts to click, you have a good read on the opposing pitching staffs, you have a good idea of your hitting zone, you know when to be aggressive and when to lay off the breaking balls you chased as a greenhorn. It’s when the game starts to slow down just a bit for you to manage it effectively.  This is the season for all of this to come to Lucas Duda at the plate, if it doesn’t the Mets are in for a long season and Duda could be one in a long line of young Mets outfielders to be discarded on the side of the road.

I’ve looked a few of the projections for Duda for the coming season and while there seems to be a bit of an uptick in his power numbers by some, is it enough t to keep him as a big league starter?:

PECOTA .251/.333/.430  15 HR 54 RBI

ZiPS  .248/.330/.418  18HR  74 RBI

Bill James  .268/.356/.454   18HR  69 RBI

 

James projects Duda with a better on base and slugging percentage and I kind of agree with that. Duda has improved his eye at the plate, swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone (30.1, 29.8 and 35.3 last season) and his base on balls rate has gone up each season as well. But it’s the power numbers that give me pause on Duda as his Isolated Power Average dropped from .189 in 2011 to a pedestrian .150 last season. Being that the Mets lineup is still in flux-I don’t think Terry Collins knows who will be his 1-2 in the lineup yet-where Duda bats will determine how many RBI opportunities he gets, I figure Duda to bat 6th so the opportunity to drive in runs will be there for him.

Hitting just 15-18 home runs will not be acceptable this season from Duda, the Mets have to see an increase to at least mid-twenty’s if the team is going to make any noise this season and again at 27 years old, it’s time for Lucas to bust out.

The dilemma is for Duda to stay in the lineup he has got to hit and be a run producer as his defense is, and there is no way to sugar coat it,dreadful. The Mets do not need Duda to be Barry Bonds-like in left field but he needs to be able to get a good initial jump on balls and just make the routine play. In Duda’s defense (no pun intended) he is a first baseman by trade who is still learning a new position, so I have to cut him some slack.

The intangible in the whole Lucas Duda equation is his mind set. When Duda first came up to the Mets, it took a while for him to become comfortable in the major league/NYC setting. Terry Collins has mentioned that Duda has to get a grasp of being a big leaguer and now as one of the young vets on this Mets team, he has to be a leader. That doesn’t mean he has to be vocal or a rah-rah type, which is not his nature but Duda has to step up this season and be a difference maker so the club and Mets fans don’t have to suffer through another disappointing season.

Let’s all hope that 2013 becomes The Summer of Duda.      

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Will The 2013 Mets Outfield Out Do Some Past Mets Outfield Clunkers ?

As we wait and see if Michael Bourn will or won’t be the 2013 and beyond Mets centerfielder, a lot of the off season chatter amongst Mets fans has been the potential for the 2013 Mets outfield to be the worst in teams history. Well, for that to happen they would have to be piss poor of epic proportion.

I went on baseball reference to look at the various Mets outfields over the years. I decide to look at the four worst run scoring teams in Mets history to see what kind of production the outfielder supplied since two of the three spot in the outfield are where teams get their power numbers and in centerfield where you hope to find your offensive catalyst. I was a bit surprised by some of my findings.

The 1968 Mets scored the least amount of runs in franchise history. The 1968 team also had the lowest team ERA in franchise history. WHAT???  The offense scored a meager 473 runs for the season which averaged out to 2.9 per game. The pitching staff pitched to a stellar 2.72 team ERA in what was known as the Year of the Pitcher. The Bob Gibson led St. Louis Cardinals lead all of MLB with an astonishing 2.49 ERA.  The Mets outfield that season consisted of three of the most important players on next seasons World Champion New York Mets.

Cleon Jones played left field and had a line of .297/.341/.452 14 HR 55 RBI. Not a bad slash line and 14 HR is okay but 55 RBI is quite low but the teams collective OBP was a lifeless.281 so as well as Jones hit, most times he came up with the bags empty. Tommy Agee was downright awful. His line was .217/.255/.307 in 368 AB. The other CF’er on that team was Don Bosch who came over from the Pirates along with Don Cardwell for Dennis Ribrant who I was a big fan of for the sole reason that I  had a tumbler from the Sunocco gas station in our neighborhood that had his likeness on it (I also had a Rob Gardner and a Ron Swoboda tumbler as well) Bosh put up a line .171/.231/.261. , which for some reason the newly formed Montreal Expos were impressed by  so they purchased Bosh’ contract at the end of the 1968 season.  Ron Swoboda put 11 baseballs over the fence and drove in 59 runs to be the team leader. Let that sink in a bit Mets fans, 59 RBI led THE TEAM FOR THE SEASON!

The Mets of 1965 scored 495 runs and had the second worst win/loss record in team history at 50-112 second only of course to the 1962 team.  The outfield that year consisted of Ron Swoboda in his rookie season in RF, Jim Hickman in CF, Johnny Lewis in RF and Joe Christopher as the very active 4th outfielder spelling Swoboda and Lewis.  Swoboda had a career best 19 HR’s but put up an ugly slash line of .228/..291/.424.  Safe to say  Swoboda was no threat to Jim Lefevre and his run to Rookie of the Year. Jim Hickman hit 15 HR and drove in a paltry 40 runs he also put up an awful slash line of .236/.291/.407 If you look at Hickman’s page on baseball-reference his 1970 season leaps off the screen. If a player had a spike like that today, what do you think the scuttlebutt would be? Johnny Lewis also hit double digits in HR’s with 15 but he also had a tough time getting a Rib Eyed Steak with 45 runs batted in. The low number of RBI is attributed to an all-time Mets team record for worst OBP of .277 WOW!

The 1967 team just missed the 500 run scored mark falling short at 498 but this team had one the best players to come out of Brooklyn in Tommy Davis playing the outfield. The Dodgers sent Davis to the Mets for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. Davis was a star on those great Dodgers teams on the early 60’s but a broken ankle in 1965 seemed to affect Davis’ power although the power in his bat returned when he joined the Mets as he hit 16 HR in ’67.  Davis also drove in 73 runs to go with a .302 BA . Davis lasted just one season with the Mets as he was dealt to the White Sox for future major contributors to the ’69 World Championship Tommy Agee and Al Weiss.   The shame about Davis’ career was he looked like a sure superstar headed toward a trip to Cooperstown before the ankle injury but he became the definition of a journeyman playing for ten teams in his eighteen year career.  Cleon Jones struggled that year and part of the reason Davis was obtained was to work with Jones which would pay off a couple of season later but in ’67 Cleon’s line of .246/.282/.331 wasn’t good.  Ron Swoboda, who played on the top three worst run producing offenses in Mets history, had one of best years by hitting 13 HR and driving 53 runs which kept the Mets front office hoping that Swoboda would start to blossom into an consistent offensive player.

As bad as the 1963 Mets were when it came to scoring runs, just 501 on the season, the outfield made  up of Frank Thomas, Jim Hickman and back to New York for one season, 36 year old Duke Snider was not awful. Snider at the end of career, hit 14 HR but again something of a pattern with these bad offensive Mets teams, drove in just 45 runs due to a bad team OBP of .285. Slugger Frank Thomas hit 15 homers and drove in 60 runs which when you look at this overall team dismal effort is outstanding. Jim Hickman hit with power, 17 HR and drove in 51 runs but his OBP of .291 was head shaking bad.

So how bad can the Mets 2013 outfield be? Is Lucas Duda a modern day Jim Hickman? Can the right field platoon of Mike Baxter/Andrew Brown/Collin Cowgil produce better than a Ron Swoboda or an aging Duke Snider? Can a Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Marlon Byrd be as productive as Tommy Davis?

I guess its questions like these that have Sandy Alderson weighing the pros and cons of signing Michael Bourn compared to keeping the 11th pick in the entry draft and more importantly the slot money they’d lose as well. This not exactly an inspiring bunch of fly ball catchers. Every day we get closer to full squad workouts at St. Lonesome the tougher the decision is for the Mets GM.

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BLOOMBERG SPORTS FRONT OFFICE 2011 IS A MUST FOR FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER AND FAN ALIKE

This past Saturday I spent the afternoon at Bloomberg Headquarters watching a demonstration of the Bloomberg Sports launch of Front Office 2011. There are two forms of Front Office, one for the fan/fantasy player and the Pro application that is becoming a staple in MLB front offices for its “leave no pitch or hit behind” usage of the application. Before we look at the Pro version of Front Office, let’s look what this application has for the fantasy baseball owner’.

The Draft Kit

With the Draft Kit gives you the ability to draft the strongest possible fantasy team by using what Bloomberg Sports calls its “B-Rank” which is a statistical secret sauce that ranks players based on the scoring system used by your league. You set up your draft list by best players available, by position or by more intense, players you should be targeting and the one’s you need to pass by.

There is also a Fantasy Factor section that list pros and cons of all players to help to make the right choice for your team. Target Round gives you Bloomberg’s take on what round players in your draft should go. This again is based on your leagues scoring system.  

What Front Office does as well is, it integrates your fantasy league (Yahoo, MLB, ESPN, CBS etc.) into the application.

So now your draft is over and you look over the team you’ve assembled and you’re not happy, you shorted yourself on pitching or a day after the draft you read the middle infielder you draft has a torn ACL and is gone for the season, what do you do, besides bang your head against the wall? You go to Front Office Free Agent finder and you look for the middle infielders  still out there who can give you some power numbers you need or if stolen bases are used as a scoring category, you can find that as a specific stat as well. You can also find that diamond in the rough you’ve read about and no one in your league pounced on yet.

Front Office also has a Lineup Manager to help with suggestions on who to start and who needs to grab some pine. Whether it’s a starting pitcher on his off day or the outfielder that is slumping, Lineup Manager gives the statistical information you need to make the lineup switch to up your league point total. You can also match your lineup with your opponents and Front Office will compare the two as your league can be synched into Front Office.

Front Office 2011 goes on sale in a week for $19.95 for the season. Besides all the stats and graphs you get baseball news on your favorite team and players on your fantasy team as well. It’s your one stop for all you baseball news and needs.

As impressive as the Fantasy version of Front Office 2011 is, the Pro version was close to jaw dropping. One of the informative and entertaining portions of the presentation was when former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, now a consultant of Bloomberg Sports as well as his own 3Psports pitching site, gave a mesmerizing demonstration on the use of the pitch f/x of the Pro Front Office. One of the pitchers that Peterson used was John Axford who Peterson mentored as pitching coach of the Milwaukee Brewers last season.

After bringing up Axford’s pitch f/x numbers on the screen, Peterson then clicked on from the drop to show the type of pitches that Axford threw during the season, the location of the pitches, what pitches were balls, strikes taken and swinging. If that wasn’t enough info for you, you can click on the pitches and you get game video of the pitcher/hitter confrontation. Peterson also pointed out to us how he used the data and video from Front Office to fix a defect in Axford’s delivery. From watching his delivery, Peterson had Axford move slightly to the right of the pitching rubber as he saw his arm angle was not where it should be when his front foot lands. By going over this video with Axford he saw the problem, made the adjustment and was successful in getting Axford to be a very effective closer.  

As If that wasn’t enough to impress you there was a “but wait there’s more” moment when the demonstration turned to having the Front Office App on an iPad.

All game information can be downloaded into this program 20 minutes after the last out of a game.  So say the Mets have just finished a game at Citi Field and are enroute to St. Louis to face the Cardinals the next day. By the time the players have given post game comments, get showered and dressed and board the bus for LaGuardia, the next days starting pitcher can load his iPad with video of the Cardinals game that night and get a detailed statistical analysis of his history versus Cardinal hitters complete with video of the at bats. The same holds for the hitters. They can get analysis right at their fingertips as to how they hit the next days starting pitchers or how he got them out.

If you are a fantasy baseball player or even if you’re just an ordinary everyday baseball fan, this application is well worth the $19.95 investment. Take a brown bag lunch to work for a couple three days to defray the cost if you have to.

By the way, Sandy Alderson should be proud, the Mets bloggers were in full force at this event as I was honored to share a table with Kerel Cooper of On The Black (Kerel has video of Peterson’s presentation) Mike Silva of NY Baseball Digest, Jon Levin of Subway Squawkers, Mark Healy of Gotham Baseball. I also got to chat with Ted Berg and James Kannengieser of Amazin’ Avenue who heard my distinct Brooklynese over the speakers when I had the floor to ask Rick Peterson a question, and at the break located me  and said “I heard that voice and I knew who it was”  it was a fun and informative day at Bloomberg Sports.

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