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Mets season preview: Lucas Duda's struggles against left-handed pitching

Lucas Duda had a breakout year in 2014, but his struggles against left-handed pitching are troubling.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

During the offseason, the Mets signed John Mayberry Jr. and Michael Cuddyer to address the team's struggles against left-handed pitching. Leading the way in futility last year was Lucas Duda, whose 54 wRC+ against lefties ranked 208th out of 226 players with at least 100 plate appearances against southpaws. Duda's .512 OPS against lefties wasn't any better, nor was his 32.8% strikeout rate.

Behind Duda's breakout 2014 season, in which he mashed 30 home runs and posted an aggregate 136 wRC+, was a tale of two seasons: an All-Star campaign against righties and a non-tender season against lefties. Duda had just 20 hits against same-handed pitchers, including two doubles and two home runs—good for a .180 batting average and a paltry .072 isolated slugging percentage. By comparison, Ruben Tejada had a .073 ISO against lefties last year.

Duda's first problem is that he struggled against lefty fastballs. Here is a look at his results against "hard" lefty pitches:

Pitch Type Pitches Seen AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BA SLG ISO
Hard 295 67 15 8 1 12 2 0 2 0.239 0.358 0.119

Duda saw lefty fastballs pretty much throughout the strike zone, with a bit more coming off the outer edge. As these numbers show, Duda had a hard time hitting those fastballs, posting just a .239 batting average and a .119 ISO against them. While these results are bad, they are nothing compared to what Duda did against southpaws' off-speed pitches:

Pitch Type Pitches Seen AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BA SLG ISO
Off-speed 255 43 25 3 1 5 0 0 0 0.116 0.116 0

Against breaking balls and off-speed offerings, Duda had five hits all season. He saw them pretty much entirely down and away, and he converted zero into extra base hits. Duda had a whiff rate of 18.1%, a batting average of .116, and an ISO of zero. Essentially, Duda did nothing all season against left-handed breaking pitches. His ISO against lefties was worse than Bartolo Colon’s ISO last season.

So, what can we expect next year, assuming that the Mets platoon Duda and Cuddyer at first? Cuddyer owns a healthy 132 career wRC+ against lefties. If the Mets got that production last year during Duda's plate appearances against lefties, the result would have been a total of 102 wRC and a roughly 150 wRC+ from the first base position. Obviously, this is a best-case scenario that would have essentially given the Mets a Paul Goldschmidt-level first baseman.

Despite his struggles against southpaws, Duda's staggering 158 wRC+ against righties was the fourth best in all of baseball, behind only those of Andrew McCutchen, Mike Trout, and Michael Brantley. If Duda can replicate that production, while Cuddyer takes his plate appearances against lefties, the Mets could enjoy a major upgrade at first base in 2015.