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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Megdal: The Mets’ Lucas Duda is the Biff Loman of baseball

Best revival? We shall see.

Lucas Duda is the Biff Loman of baseball with less defensive range, doomed to jobs he’s simply not capable of doing by the New York Mets, with unrealistic Biff dreams and a Willy Loman bank account.

Duda should be in his prime years as somebody’s perfectly capable first baseman or designated hitter. But the Mets have tried for years now to see him as more than that, something he isn’t (an outfielder), as Willy saw Biff: “I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time.”

The Mets drafted Lucas Duda in the seventh round of the 2007 draft. He was big, a powerful hitter when they got him, and in 2010 that power finally translated into home runs at Double- and Triple-A. Still, few considered him a top-flight prospect, and for one reason: his only position that made any sense at all was first base.

Or as Baseball America wrote prior to the 2011 season of Duda: “Duda’s best defensive position is first base because he’s a poor, lumbering runner with below-average range and arm strength in left field.”

“I have such thoughts, I have such strange thoughts.”—Willy Loman

...Lucas Duda turns 28 on February 3. Much of what is likely to be his peak as a baseball player was already wasted by force-feeding him into a position he is physically unable to play, then another. No, we probably weren’t kept from watching a Hall of Fame career.

But Duda, who has dutifully gone out and given his best to a series of experiments no one had any right to expect would work, and didn’t, sounds like he might be kept around, yet again, to serve as an ill-fitting backup plan, a career sacrificed due to the unlikely combination of investments with Bernie Madoff and Ike Davis’ failures.

I don’t say Lucas Duda is a great man. Lucas Duda never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper for the right reasons. He’s not the finest ballplayer that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in the outfield like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.

You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away. Lucas Duda is not a piece of fruit.

Repoz Posted: January 22, 2014 at 08:18 AM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mets

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   1. formerly dp Posted: January 22, 2014 at 01:15 PM (#4644250)
Hmmm...two links about misused/mistreated Met 1B in the past 24 hours. They'll be trying to move one of them for the rest of the winter, and into the spring. Injuries happen, and having too much depth at a position in January isn't something to be concerned with. The bench as of right now is whoever's sitting from Eric Young/Chris Young/Lagares, Duda, and maybe Flores or Satin. They still need someone to back up at SS (is Quintanilla returning?), and I'd rather not waste Flores on the bench, but there's not much left for him to do at Vegas. Davis/Duda will very likely not both be on the team in April, especially with all of the options they have for fifth OF.
   2. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: January 22, 2014 at 01:26 PM (#4644265)
Duda and/or Davis are not good enough to get back a worthwhile prospect but are still interesting enough to keep around. You're not going to give up a good prospect for a mediocre 1b/dh that needs to be platooned. It sucks for both of them, especially Duda, but the Mets are not be illogical here.

At some point this year, either Davis or Duda will be playing for another organization.
   3. Gonfalon B. Posted: January 22, 2014 at 01:29 PM (#4644272)
   4. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 22, 2014 at 01:58 PM (#4644313)
(is Quintanilla returning?)


They just re-signed him to a minor league deal.
   5. formerly dp Posted: January 22, 2014 at 02:42 PM (#4644353)
They just re-signed him to a minor league deal.
Thanks. Hopefully they can resist the temptation to use him as a regular again this year, that was an experience I could do without repeating.
   6. deputydrew Posted: January 22, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4644361)
Doesn't Duda seem like the sorta guy 2003 Billy Beane would have been all over?
   7. thetailor Posted: January 22, 2014 at 03:49 PM (#4644420)
Can someone explain to me why the obvious answer isn't to start Ike Davis in the minor leagues and let him crush it like he did in his stint last year? He needs to get his head on right and up his value from zero. In the meantime, Duda can play first base, and in the meantime prove his value there.

Is there some reason that I cannot see why this isn't the plan?
   8. The District Attorney Posted: January 22, 2014 at 04:06 PM (#4644444)
Can someone explain to me why the obvious answer isn't to start Ike Davis in the minor leagues and let him crush it like he did in his stint last year? He needs to get his head on right and up his value from zero. In the meantime, Duda can play first base, and in the meantime prove his value there.

Is there some reason that I cannot see why this isn't the plan?
Ike did that whole thing already; it's pointless to ask him to do it again. He had like the highest OBP in the NL after he came back up, something like that.

If Ike is on the team Opening Day, he should be the starter. That said, I'd be perfectly fine if he were traded. (IMO, trading both Ike and Murphy could have been lesser-Dickey moves where you're motivated by being cheapos, but the trades help the team anyway.) As mentioned in the recent article about Ike, the most likely suitor, Milwaukee, just picked up two first basemen. So now I guess we're mostly talking Pittsburgh, if a trade happens at all, which I'm guessing it doesn't.

I'm happy to critique the Mets if necessary, but I can't in this instance. Duda was an unathletic late-bloomer with zero defensive value. Most guys in this category never get a major league shot at all, even if they probably deserve one. The Mets did give him a shot, though. Since they already had a young 1B who hit from the same side of the plate and was considered to be one of their key players going forward, they tried Duda in the OF. It turned out that his defense there was unacceptable, but it was still better than not playing him at all. At least they confirmed that Duda could hit. They've been reluctant to make Duda the starting 1B, because Ike Davis is great half the time. But they've also been reluctant to get rid of Duda, because Ike Davis sucks half the time.

IMO, the only instance of the organization mishandling Duda was sending him down for a few weeks last year. And even that is questionable, since if I recall correctly the team started playing a lot better at that point (thanks largely to the improved defense). And for whatever it's worth, it allowed us to find out that Eric Young Jr. was kind of ok. They probably should have just stuck with Duda anyway. But that's certainly not a big deal.
   9. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: January 22, 2014 at 04:45 PM (#4644498)
Lucas Duda is the Biff Loman of baseball

You mean, he's not Happy?
   10. thetailor Posted: January 22, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4644500)
He had like the highest OBP in the NL after he came back up, something like that.

Thanks for answering.

Yeah, I mean, Ike had a good month. Do you think that is (or should it be?) enough to hand him the job again without proving it?

Also, I am wary of fluke months with huge OBPs. Could be a string of wild pitchers, or anything, really. When you break down his August, the slash line looks great (.290/.468/.522) but you still have 17 strikeouts and only 3 HR in 69 at bats. He still struck out 25% of the time, and that's taking his best one month split from a disaster of a year.

I don't mind the choice previously to trot Duda out there in RF - you have to give it a shot when the kid can hit like that. And props indeed to the Mets organization for grooming Duda and letting him have a try. But ultimately, they need to make a smart decision now.
   11. Lassus Posted: January 22, 2014 at 04:55 PM (#4644507)
I don't mind the choice previously to trot Duda out there in RF - you have to give it a shot when the kid can hit like that.

He may be the worst outfielder I have ever seen. His hitting isn't THAT good.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 22, 2014 at 05:17 PM (#4644536)

He may be the worst outfielder I have ever seen.


Worse than Todd Hundley?
   13. God Posted: January 22, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4644554)
Worse than Manny Ramirez? Chipper Jones? Juan Pierre?
   14. formerly dp Posted: January 22, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4644560)
Worse than Todd Hundley?
I'll raise you a Daniel Murphy.
   15. formerly dp Posted: January 22, 2014 at 06:26 PM (#4644642)
Reese Havens has retired. That pick did not work out.
Havens was a first-round pick of the Mets back in 2008, but a long list of injuries prevented him from living up to his potential. The 27-year-old was dropped from the 40-man roster last spring and hit just .237/.312/.330 in 38 games in Triple-A last season.

   16. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 22, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4644670)
Worse than Manny Ramirez? Chipper Jones? Juan Pierre?


Chipper and Juan?

Kevin Reimer is insulted it's taken this long to get mentioned.

   17. Lassus Posted: January 22, 2014 at 07:25 PM (#4644680)
Worse than Manny Ramirez?

Absolutely. Manny could actually throw well and play the Monster.


Chipper Jones?

Never saw him, ask Sam.


Juan Pierre?

Yes. Pierre could actually run.


Worse than Todd Hundley?

Yes. And I believe Hundley was a better hitter anyhow. (And played mostly during my college and post-college baseball blackout years, so I'm not AS familiar.)


I'll raise you a Daniel Murphy.

I'm glad we never found out, but if Murphy had been allowed to play as many LF games as Duda, he probably would have ended up better.


Duda's offense is not worth his defense.
   18. donlock Posted: January 22, 2014 at 07:25 PM (#4644681)
Lucas Duda seems a fairly ordinary athlete to be compared to a character from an Arthur Miller play. Is this a player from one of the New York teams by chance? I look forward to hearing Daniel Murphy being compared to Holden Caulfield.
   19. formerly dp Posted: January 22, 2014 at 07:51 PM (#4644689)
I'm glad we never found out, but if Murphy had been allowed to play as many LF games as Duda, he probably would have ended up better.
It's my recollection that Murphy got progressively (comically) worse out there. Not saying he wouldn't have improved, but it was cruel to keep running him out there on a consistent basis. Duda's not highlight-reel bad the way Murphy was, is he? From what I remember last season, he makes being bad easy on the eyes-- just doesn't get to balls he should.

I find it very hard to believe Duda's as bad as Hundley was-- with Hundley and Murphy, we're talking about guys who were so bad they had to give up the position. Maybe Duda falls into that category, and the Mets are just making a poor decision, but that difference should tell you something.
   20. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: January 22, 2014 at 07:53 PM (#4644690)
Lucas Duda seems a fairly ordinary athlete to be compared to a character from an Arthur Miller play. Is this a player from one of the New York teams by chance? I look forward to hearing Daniel Murphy being compared to Holden Caulfield.


Alex Rodriguez is the War Horse of baseball.
   21. PreservedFish Posted: January 22, 2014 at 08:03 PM (#4644695)
Hundley is the worst defensive outfielder I've ever seen. It was probably similar to just putting an average adult man out there. Roger Cedeno had a similar natural ability to Hundley, but he was a great athlete. Daniel Murphy was half way between the two of them. Duda is similar to Murphy in overall ability, better instincts (I don't remember him hilariously missing routine fly balls, as Murphy could), worse athleticism. Or what #19 said. Chipper, Pierre and Manny were all better than any of the above men.

The Mets have also been blessed with a few outstanding outfielders over the same time period - younger Carlos Beltran was every day excellence but Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Endy Chavez were the most exciting.
   22. PreservedFish Posted: January 22, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4644697)
Also, my abiding memory of Reese Havens was commentary on this site the day he was drafted. There was one person, I think a Red Sox fan, that was absolutely convinced that Havens was a future All-Star, the steal of the draft.
   23. formerly dp Posted: January 22, 2014 at 08:14 PM (#4644703)
younger Carlos Beltran was every day excellence but Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Endy Chavez were the most exciting.
Having Chavez and Beltran out there at the same time was beautiful to watch. Granderson/Lagares/Chris Young should be enjoyable, if not quite on the same level.
   24. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 22, 2014 at 08:21 PM (#4644705)
only 3 HR in 69 at bats


1 HR for every 23 AB is a perfectly good rate. It's the career average of David Wright, Stan Musial, and Edgar Martinez, for example.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: January 22, 2014 at 08:26 PM (#4644707)
Here's a delightful thread on BA's Top 10 Mets prospects in December 2008. What's amazing is that Wilmer Flores - still a prospect! - is at the top of the list, just behind Fernando Martinez. Jenrry Mejia is there too. Some good Sam M on Dan M love.
   26. HowardMegdal Posted: January 22, 2014 at 08:32 PM (#4644708)
Lucas Duda seems a fairly ordinary athlete to be compared to a character from an Arthur Miller play.

Yes, because Miller only wrote about the extraordinary. The Lomans are a great example of this.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 22, 2014 at 09:28 PM (#4644726)
Hundley is the worst defensive outfielder I've ever seen. It was probably similar to just putting an average adult man out there.

Concur. It looked like he didn't even understand the purpose of a LF in baseball
   28. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 22, 2014 at 10:24 PM (#4644768)
Also, my abiding memory of Reese Havens was commentary on this site the day he was drafted. There was one person, I think a Red Sox fan, that was absolutely convinced that Havens was a future All-Star, the steal of the draft.


I really liked Havens in the draft. It's a shame he coukdn't stay healthy - he was a hell of a player before he started getting hurt.
   29. JJ1986 Posted: January 22, 2014 at 10:42 PM (#4644781)
Hundley was probably worse. Murphy looked worse because he made his mistakes near the ball, but Duda just doesn't get near anything. Duda would definitely be the worst outfielder in MLB if he played enough; he had a worse DRS Rate than Raul Ibanez last year (though Mike Morse was even worse).
   30. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 22, 2014 at 10:57 PM (#4644789)
Hundley is the worst defensive outfielder I've ever seen.

then you never saw Tito Francona (the original--not his son)
   31. PreservedFish Posted: January 22, 2014 at 11:00 PM (#4644791)
Guys, Hundley was markedly worse than Duda. He played 34 games in leftfield. It looks like he was removed for a defensive replacement 30 times. His fielding percentage was .900. He was basically laughed off of the position.

Duda sucks, but let's be serious - he's one of many lumbering ox types in the outfield, guys like Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn and Pete Incaviglia and Delmon Young. These guys all get moved to DH eventually but they can play many hundreds of games in the outfield before it happens. If Duda looked exactly the same, but had better numbers, you'd think: Duda sucks but maybe he's good enough to justify his keeping his bat in the lineup. If Hundley looked exactly the same, but had better numbers, you'd think: these defensive stats are a joke. You would never trust another defensive number again.

The grand experiment of turning Hundley into an outfielder had just begun. Today, after 34 starts in left field -- some of which were painful to watch -- the experiment is officially over... When asked today what he was going to do with his outfielder's glove, Hundley said, ''Burn it.''


NY Times - Hundley Experiment Goes Up in Flames
   32. J in the Slope Posted: January 23, 2014 at 02:12 AM (#4644879)
Also, my abiding memory of Reese Havens was commentary on this site the day he was drafted. There was one person, I think a Red Sox fan, that was absolutely convinced that Havens was a future All-Star, the steal of the draft.


By the end of 2003 it looked like that Red Sox fan was going to be right. A .312/.386/.592 line in A+ and AA isn't bad for a second baseman, even if it was during an injury-shortened year. Over the years Havens went from "he hit when healthy" to "he's not healthy and he's not hitting."
   33. formerly dp Posted: January 23, 2014 at 08:15 AM (#4644916)
By the end of 2003 it looked like that Red Sox fan was going to be right. A .312/.386/.592 line in A+ and AA isn't bad for a second baseman, even if it was during an injury-shortened year. Over the years Havens went from "he hit when healthy" to "he's not healthy and he's not hitting."
2011 was the last season he showed promise: .289/.372/.455 as a 24 year-old in AA. His walk and strikeout rates skyrocketed in 2012, and then he just tanked in Vegas last year.
   34. Lassus Posted: January 23, 2014 at 09:09 AM (#4644925)
OK, maybe I oversold on Hundley. As I said, not the period of baseball when I paid the most attention.

However, putting a guy out there with a "Hey, he's better than Todd Hundley!" description just further proves my point.
   35. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 23, 2014 at 09:59 AM (#4644941)
OK, maybe I oversold on Hundley. As I said, not the period of baseball when I paid the most attention.

However, putting a guy out there with a "Hey, he's better than Todd Hundley!" description just further proves my point.


I don't think anyone is criticizing you. We just still carry the psychological scars of watching Todd Hundley in the OF.
   36. Conor Posted: January 23, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4644956)
The thing about Murphy in the OF is my recollection is that when he was first called up in 2008, he was passable there. But by the time 2009 came around, he was just really bad out there.
I was a little too young to remember specifics about Hundley in the OF, other than he wasn't very good at all. But Duda is really really bad out there.
   37. just plain joe Posted: January 23, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4644958)
I'll raise you a Daniel Murphy.


I will see your Daniel Murphy and raise you a Greg Luzinski.
   38. formerly dp Posted: January 23, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4644964)
The thing about Murphy in the OF is my recollection is that when he was first called up in 2008, he was passable there. But by the time 2009 came around, he was just really bad out there.
Yeah, that's how I remember it too. Not sure what happened over the winter.

The Hundley Experiment should have put to rest the notion that anyone can learn to play LF. And then they re-learned that with Murphy. I think they've already decided Flores will be an infielder or bust, at least in part based on these experiences.

Hundley had a weird career; OPS+ by season from age 26 on:
131
140
148
40
87
143
67
90

And basically done at 34. Did manage to clear 200 homers in that time.

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