## Projecting Lucas Duda 2012: defense, defense,defense.....

As the football season nears its end, baseball fans start the projection season. Many of the Met fans I have spoken to pin their hopes for a respectable year in 2012, on a big year from Lucas Duda. Let's try to project what value Lucas Duda will bring to the Mets next season. Luckily, we don't have to blindly guess what Duda will accomplish in 2012, as we have the use of projection systems.

There are three popular projection systems available freely on the web that I have used for this task: ZIPS by Dan Szymborski available at the baseball think factory; Bill James projections available on fangraphs; and CAIRO, available at the replacement level Yankees weblog. However, no projection system will project fielding runs. So for starters, let's take a look at the projected WAR for Lucas Duda in 2012 excluding any changes for fielding runs.

 Column1 wOBA wRAA* Pos* Rep* Field WAR Bill James 0.365 25.56522 -6.9 20 3.866522 ZIPS* 0.307 -4.69565 -6.9 20 0.840435 Cairo 0.335 9.913043 -6.9 20 2.301304

*Notes: While Cairo and Bill James project wOBA, Zips does not. Any mistakes in calculations are all mine. Zips also deos not project HBP and RBOE. HBP was just averaged of Duda's HBP/year. RBOE is not charted by fangraphs and was left out of this calculation. Also, not all projection systems predict a full season from Duda. While I have used their wOBA values, I have used a base of 150 games played and 600 PA for wRAA, POS, and REP values.

Obviously, there is a huge variance in projected wOBA between these systems, with Bill James unsurprisingly the most optimistic and CAIRO coming in almost exactly at the midpoint between the other two. (in fact, I probably should have set up the table in either ascending or descending order with CAIRO in the middle, but CAIRO was the last to publish their numbers.) So if we assume ZIPS as the least we can expect from Duda in 2012 and James as the upper limit of reasonable expectations, we can take CAIRO as the average projection for Duda. The resulting WAR is less than inspiring. While not bad, a WAR a smidgen over 2.0 is roughly an average MLB player. While 2 WAR for the minimum salary is a nice return in value for a cash strapped team, it's not enough to make up for the loss of Beltran. However, we are trying to be optimistic here, so let's for a moment assume Duda can hit like Bill James thinks he can. Now we are closer to 4 WAR territory, which is all-star level. All of a sudden the Mets will have found a young star for the future. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, we are forgetting defensive runs here and that WAR number is probably going to come down when you add in those defensive runs. Last year was an abysmal one for Duda in RF. UZR did not like him at all, and while it normally takes three years for UZR scores to normalize, those that saw him playing the outfield all agreed he looked terrible. There is some hope that with a full off season to work on playing RF, a position he had limited playing time at before last year (16 games at Buffalo, 7 at St. Lucie, and one each at Binghamton and Brooklyn) some improvements will be seen. Last year, UZR had Duda as being worth -11.8 runs as a RF, in only 355 innings. His UZR/150 was an abysmal -43.2 runs. We can safely assume that if he is fielding at these levels, Duda won't get enough playing time to actually hit the level of -43.2. Over the last five years, 84 players had over 100 games played (900 innings) in RF. None had an actual UZR of less than or equal to -40. Only six had a UZR of less than -20. The median was at +0.5 runs. Can Duda be better than the median? It is hard to see that from someone whom Kevin Goldstein famously had this to say about in December 2010 "he has the range of a lawn ornament and a poor arm". Let's use the median than as his ceiling, and the basement as the -20 level. So I expect his UZR to fall somewhere between 0.5 and -20. The updated WAR chart then looks like this.

 Column1 Column2 Column3 Column4 Column5 Column6 Column7 wOBA wRAA Pos Rep Field WAR Bill James 0.365 25.5652 -6.9 20 0.5 3.91652 0.365 25.5652 -6.9 20 -5 3.36652 0.365 25.5652 -6.9 20 -10 2.86652 0.365 25.5652 -6.9 20 -15 2.36652 0.365 25.5652 -6.9 20 -20 1.86652 ZIPS 0.307 -4.6957 -6.9 20 0.5 0.89043 0.307 -4.6957 -6.9 20 -5 0.34043 0.307 -4.6957 -6.9 20 -10 -0.1596 0.307 -4.6957 -6.9 20 -15 -0.6596 0.307 -4.6957 -6.9 20 -20 -1.1596 Cairo 0.335 9.91304 -6.9 20 0.5 2.3513 0.335 9.91304 -6.9 20 -5 1.8013 0.335 9.91304 -6.9 20 -10 1.3013 0.335 9.91304 -6.9 20 -15 0.8013 0.335 9.91304 -6.9 20 -20 0.3013

So if Lucas Duda can hit like the most optimistic projections have him hitting, as long as his defensive runs are above -20 he should be fine. Anything closer to the median is gravy. If he hits like the most pessimistic of projections have him hitting, it's going to be a long year for Mets fans. Even if Duda manages to improve his fielding to the level above, he's still worth less than 1 WAR. Finally, if you use the projections laid out by CAIRO, you see where Duda's defense will be key. In order to be an average MLB starter he will need to improve his defense and bring his UZR as close to positive digits as possible. Given what we saw from him last year, that seems like a tall order.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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