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An Ode to The Dude

Lucas Duda.  The Dude.  The Big Lebowski.  If there is one player on the Mets who would be most deserving of the title of “Most Underrated” it would be Lucas Duda.  I arrived at this conclusion based on my own subjective, and fallible, perception of the casual baseball fan’s perception about Lucas Duda; which I would assume would be somewhere in the vicinity of none.  Some of his relative underratedness may stem from the fact that he was relatively “streaky” during the course of this regular season, which is an inherent trait of a player who produces a large amount of his value by way of the home run.  Also, after Duda had eight straight hits go for home runs during the course of a seven-game stretch in late July, Yoenis Cespedes caught the eyes of the national media from basically the moment he was traded to New York.  That being said, I think Mr. Duda deserves a little recognition for his solid year, especially since he looms as an important figure in the active World Series.

On the surface Duda has almost exactly replicated his breakout 2014 in 2015.  For reference, this table of arbitrary statistics:

Statistic 2014 2015
WAR 3.2 3.1
wRC+ 136 133
BABIP 0.283 0.285
ISO 0.228 0.242

His overall value has remained almost exactly the same over the past two years as he has churned out two straight 3-win seasons.  His walk rate and strikeout percentage have been fairly stable as well, as has his various swing rates.  In this regard Lucas has been remarkably consistent.

However, there is one portion of Duda’s underlying statistics that differed significantly from this year to the rest of his career.  Duda pulled the ball less, and went to opposite field more.  Here is another table to illustrate this fact:

Year Pull% Cent% Oppo%
2012 44.0% 34.2% 21.8%
2013 45.9% 31.7% 22.5%
2014 44.1% 34.7% 21.1%
2015 39.0% 33.9% 27.1%
Career 43.2% 33.8% 23.1%

* The table starts in 2012 simply because the prior years don’t really provide any additional insight


And here are the batted-ball maps for 2o14 and 2015 to further illustrate Duda’s change in approach:



It looks as though Duda has tried to make himself a more balanced hitter, and decrease the amount of shifts he faces, as he has made an obvious attempt to go the other way more often this year.  This didn’t result in any additional offensive value this year – as we saw in the first table his overall value stayed steady – as we didn’t even see an increase in BABIP.  Regardless, this seems to be a trend worth keeping an eye on, and worth remembering during the World Series.

In specific regard to the World Series, Duda has a relatively significant platoon split; Career 91 wRC+ vs LHP, 136 wRC+ vs RHP.  With the Kansas City Royals featuring right-handers Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Chris Young, Wade Davis, Ryan Madson, and Kelvin Herrera, among others, Duda looks to occupy an important role during the series.  With all of Kansas City’s probable starters being right-handed Duda should start every game, and it doesn’t seem like he will be pinch-hit for too often with Kansas City’s three best relievers being right-handed as well.

Lucas Duda; chronically underrated, and under-spoken, might just be the Mets’ most pivotal player during this World Series.  Or not.  Probably not, there are a lot of players on a baseball team, but he will assuredly be a pivotal player.  The Dude Abides.

The Mets, Third-Base Uncertainty, and Troy Tulowitzki

The New York Mets are a team in need of upgrade.  With their playoff odds now at 16%, while every additional win is still important, there should be a large focus on 2016, and beyond, as well.  The question is where to upgrade.  A team should be willing to upgrade anywhere (a win is a win, is a win, is a win).  However, considering the type of depth and high-end talent the Mets have in their rotation, it seems unlikely they will attempt an upgrade there.  Both corner outfield spots could use an upgrade, but it is probably unlikely that the Mets will move, or bench, either Michael Cuddyer or Curtis Granderson.  Catcher has young talent.  First base is set.  Second base has a couple of capable providers in Daniel Murphy and Dilson Herrera. This leaves us with shortstop and third base.

Shortstop was a hot topic around Metland during the off-season, mainly in regards to Wilmer Flores’ questionable defense.  As he did things like this:

Ahhh, that never gets old.  However, he has also done things like this:

Ultimately, Wilmer now has a 1.7 UZR/150 in 561.2 innings this year to supplement his 12.5 UZR/150 in 443.1 innings in 2014.  This now gives him a cumulative 5.9 UZR/150 in 1005 innings!  While this is still not a huge sample size it is becoming increasingly likely that Flores can stick at the position.  Flores’ apparent ability to play shortstop coupled with his current 93 wRC+ (projected for more of the same from ZiPS and Steamer) makes him about an average player.

This is where it gets interesting.  The Mets’ third-base situation is probably the most variable in baseball.  It is basically impossible to know what they will get from David Wright at this point, if anything at all.  Spinal stenosis is a harsh mistress.  Time will tell what becomes of Wright.  Though, every cloud has a silver lining.  Other clichés.  The Mets will not bring in a strict third baseman, but it would be nice to have someone who can play there for a prolonged period of time if things go bad.

This leads us to Troy Tulowitzki.  Tulo is currently projected for a 128 wRC+, and 2.4 WAR, in 68 games for the rest of the season according to FanGraphs Depth Charts.  Tulowitzki is the type of 5-WAR star the Mets are in need of, as he would be a major upgrade over Flores in 2015 and beyond.  Additionally, Tulo would be able to move over to third base in the case of a prolonged absence from Wright, giving the Mets more malleability in terms of adding impact players.  In this case Flores can either be traded or used in a different capacity.  Tulo has long seemed to be a great fit for the Mets, and the uncertainty concerning David Wright seems to strengthen this fit.  Or, maybe this doesn’t affect the Mets’ decision-making process at all and I’m just writing nonsense.  Tulowitzki is a good fit regardless.  Though he would command a package such as Matz, Plawecki, Rosario, and Conforto, this may very well be worth it for the Mets.

Not Another Wilmer Flores Defense Post

It looks like the New York Mets are going to be entering the season with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop.  Flores has become a polarizing figure among Mets fans for a myriad of reasons, most notably of which would be his defensive capabilities at the position.  Scouts have long held that Flores is not a capable shortstop; however his defensive metrics were pretty good last year!  That being said we know a sample size of one season of defensive metrics is prone to a lot of statistical noise.  And THAT being said we know that Flores played just 443.1 innings at shortstop last season.  Uh oh.  What exactly can we take from that sample size?  How much weight should we place on these defensive metrics for Mr.Flores?

Are the scouts right?  Are the metrics right?  Or is the answer somewhere in between?  (Almost definitely.)

What follows is an exercise which will answer precisely zero of the above questions.  However, I cannot remember a situation quite like this Flores predicament, so I went on a quest (through FanGraphs) to find some comparables.  What shortstops have had the type of defensive metric success Flores has had in such a short sample size, and how have they fared outside of that season?

I looked at a sample of players from 2003-2014 who played from 400 to 500 innings at the position with a UZR/150 from 5 to 19 (Flores was at 12.5).  All these parameters are quite arbitrary, but this whole exercise is quite arbitrary so let’s move along.

This brings us a list of ten seasons excluding Flores.  The seasons are as follows:


2014    Jose Ramirez (498.2 Innings, 18.9 UZR/150)

2008    Marco Scutaro (472.1, 17.6)

2008    Maicer Izturis (448, 15.9)

2009    Robert Andino (478.1, 14.1)

2010    Jerry Hairston (489.2, 8.9)

2006    Alex Cora (434, 8.7)

2012    Paul Janish (450.1, 8.6)

2014    Stephen Drew (413.1, 8.1)

2012    John McDonald (426.1, 6.1)

2010    Wilson Valdez (458, 5.2)

What this list of players lacks, is a very poor fielding shortstop.  The lowest career shortstop UZR/150 of the bunch belongs to Mr. Izturis at -3.1 in 1697.1 innings.  This seems to be a list of humans in which you can confidently state “Hey!  None of these players were atrocious major-league defensive shortstops over their careers!”

So what does this mean in regards to Flores?  Basically, nothing.  However, Mets fans can now take solace in knowing that the 10 players (from the last 12 seasons), who had the most similar statistical defensive season to Flores’ 2014, had careers in which they were able to play the shortstop position not horribly.  Now, if Flores himself can play the shortstop position not horribly then the Mets might just have them a nice little player.

Then again, there is always this: