COMMENTARY | The New York Mets have won five straight games, including a surprising four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in this year's Subway Series. The pitching has been incredible, but Terry Collins has seen his offense start to come back to life. Lucas Duda being more aggressive at the plate is a major reason why.
The Mets' organizational philosophy this season has been to take pitches, and Duda has bought into it. He's drawn 28 walks in 2013; that's tied for sixth-most in the National League. The outfielder sees 4.25 pitches per plate appearance, which ranks fourth in the league.
Duda is proud of his patience at the plate, but the coaching staff has urged him to be more aggressive. Making the opposing pitcher go deep into counts is great, but he wasn't allowing himself to swing at pitches he could drive to the outfield. To do that, he needs to jump on fastballs early in the count on occasion. Once he started doing that, Duda has become a different hitter.
The left fielder has only seen 3.99 pitches per plate appearance in May, but has watched his aggressiveness result in increased productivity at the plate. He started the month collecting only four hits in his first 40 at-bats (.100 batting average), but is hitting .308 (16-for-52) since May 16th. Duda has registered at least one hit in 12 of his last 14 games played, including 10 in a row.
He's only hit one home run during that time, but has recorded five doubles, increasing his season total to 10. While he was taking a lot of pitches and drawing walks, his line drive rate was only 16.3%. Once he became more aggressive, it jumped to 17.2% (17.9% in May).
I've enjoyed watching Duda be selective at the plate, but it's not worth sacrificing his own production. That's part of the reason why he only had 13 RBIs this season before his hot streak started on May 16th against the St. Louis Cardinals.
It's hard to be a run producer when you don't swing the bat. Duda has been swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone compared to 2012, but the same has happened on pitches he should be swinging at. His Z-Swing% has decreased from 62.5% in 2012 to 58.3% in 2013.
That decline has led to him making less contact on those balls (87% in'12 to 80.6% in'13). Seeing these statistics explains why his BABIP is .280 and his line drive rate is much lower than his career norm.
While Ike Davis works through early season struggles and John Buck cooling off after his hot start, the Mets need Duda to provide consistent power in the lineup. Being more aggressive has allowed him to see more fastballs in the strike zone to hit. That's why he's experiencing an increase in both batting average and power production.
If Duda continues this controlled aggression at the plate, he will keep building upon his current .238/.354/.463 line. He's been one of the few Mets hitters to stay dedicated to his approach at the plate all season. With this small adjustment, he will continue to see his numbers climb upward.
As of May 31st, Duda's .463 slugging percentage ranks 11th among NL outfielders, and his .817 OPS is 12th. He'll easily crack the top-10 in both categories as he continues to swing more often, which will also help the Mets win ballgames heading into June. While Davis and Buck try to get back on track, Duda should be manning the fourth spot in the lineup, providing protection for Daniel Murphy and David Wright.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue, Mets Minors, and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.
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