New York Mets Made Right Choice With Lucas Duda at First Base

By Paul Festa
Lucas Duda
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2014 season, the New York Mets had three players competing for the first base job. On Apr. 18, the Mets chose their man. They traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitching prospect Zack Thornton and a player to be named later, opening the door for Lucas Duda to be (at least) the left-handed platoon option at first. Since then, Duda has thrived and Davis has struggled.

The returns are early, but it looks like the Mets made the right decision to move on from Davis — and it’s not just because of Ike’s numbers with Pittsburgh. In 47 plate appearances with the Pirates, Davis is hitting .190/.277/.310 with a homer (a grand slam in his third game as a Buc) and five RBIs. He has three hits in his last 29 at bats with six strikeouts.

Evaluating Davis strictly on statistics isn’t entirely fair — 47 plate appearances falls well within the category of a small sample size. His swing is still long and hitchy, making it all but impossible to find any kind of consistency. If all of his moving parts come together, he can get on a temporary hot streak, but there’s no reason to think he can have sustained success with his current swing.

Many fans and pundits thought Davis would thrive once he left New York. They thought Davis had “upside” and was “the future”, believing it was a mistake to let him go. Heck, the Mets’ radio broadcast booth all but eulogized Ike the night of the trade, emphasizing his presence in the clubhouse. But he’s struggled more for the Pirates than he did for the Mets. This has led to speculation that Pittsburgh is still looking to add another first base bat (a rumor that Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington denies).

Duda, meanwhile, is hitting .271/.361/.447. He leads the long ball-challenged Mets with four home runs, and his 15 RBIs are second only to David Wright. Beyond the numbers, Duda has a simpler swing. It’s still long, but it has fewer moving parts than Ike’s, which prevents the kind of prolonged and hapless slumps that Davis experienced in the first halves of 2012 and 2013. And Duda has always shown patience as a hitter, while Davis’ plate discipline sometimes abandons him for long periods of time. The Mets have been so happy with Duda that they’ve talked about giving him more starts against left-handers; he had two hits and an RBI off of one on Saturday.

Since the trade only occurred two weeks ago, it’s impossible to make a conclusive evaluation about it. But you can bet the Mets are much happier right now with a guy who has an .808 OPS at first base than a good clubhouse guy who’s hitting below the Mendoza Line.

Paul J. Festa is a baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter @pauljfesta and add him on Google.

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