Yesterday afternoon, Lucas Duda hit sixth in the Mets' lineup. Entering the game, Duda was hitting .293/.491/.707, easily the best triple-slash line among Mets hitters and significantly better than that of Ike Davis, who hit in the cleanup spot.
Per Marc Carig of Newsday, Mets manager Terry Collins kept Duda in the sixth spot of the batting order because he — wait for it — did not want to mess with Duda's confidence. If there's a player with whom the word "confidence" is associated, it's Duda.
"Duda has openly -- and probably too candidly -- questioned on multiple occasions whether he belongs at this level since his Sept. 1 call-up last year when rosters expanded," wrote Adam Rubin on June 26, 2011.
There were tales of Carlos Beltran helping Lucas Duda with his confidence when the two were teammates, which Andy Martino noted before the 2012 season.
In spring training this year, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com wrote about Duda's confidence and quoted fellow Met Kirk Nieuwenhuis about the Mets' left fielder: "Duda's just an animal. If he could see himself through our eyes, he would be pretty amazed."
But it's hard to imagine Duda's production would plummet solely because of a promotion in the batting order. His outstanding production through his first sixteen games isn't sustainable, of course, but his current numbers wouldn't be sustainable for Miguel Cabrera, either. Duda will come down to earth over time whether he's promoted to the cleanup spot or not.
Terry Collins knows his players well, but the Mets would be better off with Duda hitting higher than the sixth spot. Lineup construction may not be of incredible importance on a day-to-day basis, but the more plate appearances good hitters get, the more runs a team is likely to score over the course of a season.
It's clear that Collins likes to slot a right-handed hitter between Davis and Duda so the Mets aren't vulnerable to left-handed pitchers, specifically late in close games. By season's end, Davis could very well be the better hitter of the two, but right now, there's no question that Duda is the superior hitter. In the short term, they should switch spots in the team's lineup.