Lucas Duda is raging hot. In his last 27 plate appearances, the Mets’ first baseman has slugged eight home runs and raised his OPS by over 70 points, from .754 to .828. This recent string of success broke up a brutal 46-game stretch in which the Dude hit just .168/.282/.275 with three long balls.
Duda’s cold streak, combined with his relatively "low" home run total of 12 through 94 games, led many to call his season a disappointment. Take these quotes from Keith Hernandez talking to WFAN’s Mike Francesa on June 18:
"This is what I feel, Mike. I believe in a sophomore jinx. And the reason why—and maybe that’s, you know, I grew up in San Francisco, where the Giants had this June swoon and you heard about the sophomore jinx all the time. And I think the reason is [Duda] hit 30 home runs last year, and [opposing pitchers] start taking him seriously…
"You come to camp, and you’ve done it, and you get through that season, and you have that breakout year, and you take a deep breath, and you prepare for the next season. And then, for the first time, things are expected of you. And not little things; big things are expected of you as a contributor for the ball club. And pitchers on the other side, the opponents, now go, ‘Okay, this guy’s a 30-home-run hitter. I can’t just throw him a 2-0 fastball.’…
"What’s happened with him is, this’ll be a learning year for him. And hopefully next year—maybe he’ll come out and have a great second half and we’ll all look back at this. You know, would you want a good first half and a bad second half, or you want vice versa?"
The idea that Duda was ever having a "bad" year is a bit puzzling. On the day of that interview, he was hitting a robust .275/.378/.480. His .858 OPS was nearly thirty points higher than last year’s mark of .830. While his nine home runs put him on pace for 23—seven fewer than the 30 he hit last season—he had already hit 20 doubles, well on pace to surpass the 27 he hit in 2014. As a result, his slugging percentage was only a point lower than it was last year. Furthermore, his .378 on-base percentage would have been a career high, while his .275 batting average would have been his highest since 2011.
And yet, the narrative of a down year persisted. Unfortunately, Duda’s six-week cold stretch played right into it, and indeed brought his 2015 numbers down to .237/.340/.414. Still, it’s worth remembering that, in a full 56 of the 101 games he’s played this year, Duda’s OPS was higher than it was all of last season. That’s right. For over half of the year, Duda’s offensive numbers were actually better than they were in his breakout 2014 campaign.
Again, that hasn’t been the perception among many in the media and in the fan base.
Hopefully Duda’s recent success helps put things into better perspective. After just one hot week, he's raised his 2015 batting line to .246/.347/.481 (134 wRC+), almost identical to his 2014 line of .253/.349/.481 (136 wRC+). Oh, and he’s on pace for 31 home runs.
One final note: Last year wasn't Duda's first productive season as a big leaguer. In 604 career games, he's compiled an impressive .248/.345/.449 batting line, which translates to a 124 wRC+. That's a higher career mark than those of Curtis Granderson (117), Michael Cuddyer (112), and Yoenis Cespedes (117).
When it comes to Lucas Duda, it might be time to pack our things and make our way home from Panic City.