All Aboard The Duda Wagon

Notes: All stats below don’t include yesterday’s games.

Nick Swisher is done helping you. Lucas Duda might be the heir to his…throne, though. It’s probably more of a nicely upholstered chair that you’d find at a restoration shop where you know what it’s worth, but the person selling it does not. Enough with poorly thought out metaphors, though. To the stats!

Nick Swisher (2009 – 2012) 83 26 87 0.268 0.367 0.483 0.370
Lucas Duda (2014 + Steamer ROS) 68 27 83 0.255 0.350 0.476 0.360

The resemblance is startling. You could even make the case that Duda’s a little undersold going forward, considering how different his approach has been this season. (more on that in a bit) It’s usually best to trust the projections, but I’m expecting a better line going forward than the one Steamer projects (.334 wOBA). Basically, I’m not taking my own advice, because Duda. That’s why.

As mentioned, Duda’s a changed man. Karl De Vries noted some of those changes here. I want to expand upon that a little bit. Duda’s plate discipline has actually went in the opposite direction this season. At least it’s gone the opposite direction of what we normally consider beneficial.

Last season, Duda was extremely patient in the zone, swinging at only 54% of the pitches he saw in the strike zone; only eleven batters swung less frequently at pitches in the zone. (minimum: 350 PA) This season, he’s been much more aggressive in the zone, swinging 61% of the time, just below the league average mark of 63%.  He’s been more aggressive in the zone, especially ahead in the count, while keeping his chase rate in check. Patience is a virtue, and we all love walks, but you can definitely be too patient at times.

According to Baseball Savant, Duda saw 450 pitches while ahead in the count last season, offering at 168 of them. If you like percentages, he swung at 37% of the pitches he saw while ahead. He’s seen 421 of the same pitches this year, and offered at 181 (43%) of them. And his aggressiveness has been rewarded. His ISO, while ahead in the count this season, stands at .507 (!), a remarkable improvement over his .271 mark in 2013.

I’m reminded of Dave Cameron’s post on hidden hackers. Duda is by no means a hacker, nor is he a hidden one. His new-ish aggressiveness, though, is noticeable, and has been a boon for his productivity.

One more thing before we get back to our comparison, Duda’s in good company regarding his power. He ranks 18th in pull ISO, while ranking 16th going the other way. The only other player that ranks top 20 in both is Paul Goldschmidt.

Back to our Swisher comparisons.

Player O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-contact% Z-Contact% Contact%
Nick Swisher (2009 – 2012) 20.8% 59.9% 40.0% 56.2% 86.2% 78.2%
Lucas Duda (2014 YTD) 26.4% 61.1% 42.0% 52.5% 86.9% 75.0%

It’s not a perfect one, but it’s pretty close. Prime Swisher swung a little less than Duda has and made a little more contact. Swisher also saw fewer strikes than Duda. Perhaps that’s because he had more “respect;” who knows? Either way, it’s close enough.

Much of Swisher’s value was derived from his draft position. He wasn’t very expensive. The fact that you could depend on him and slot him in at two different spots was just icing on the cake. Duda is likely to check two of those boxes next Spring. He might not be thought of as reliable yet, which should help to keep his price down. It all depends on how he finishes the season, of course, but it’s hard to see him going too early. After all, at first base he’ll be competing directly with: Miguel Cabrera, Jose Abreu, Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion, Anthony Rizzo, Albert Pujols, Brandon Moss, Freddie Freeman (who is a little overrated in fantasy), and Carlos Santana (might have C eligibility), among others. It’s not hard to see Duda being a bargain next season.

The whole point of this piece, other than lapping praise upon one of Fangraphs’ readers’ favorite sons, is Duda might be the next Swisher. When Swisher was in his fantasy prime, offense was easier to come by. Now, finding offense – especially power – can be a chore. Behold:

Position Year PA HR wOBA ISO wRC+
1B 2009 25759 989 0.356 0.198 115
1B 2014 18309 604 0.331 0.172 110
OF 2009 71907 2028 0.337 0.164 103
OF 2014 53211 1229 0.32 0.142 103

Nothing revolutionary there. You already knew offense was down, but comparisons don’t mean much without context. Power is down across the board; nearly thirty bombs out means a whole lot more to your team than it did in 2009. Forty players hit at least 27 home runs in 2009; thirty-two did so two years later; twenty-one accomplished it last year; and Steamer projects twenty-two will do it this year.

The best way I can wrap this up is: prime Swisher would be more valuable now; and Duda is essentially that person, with platoon issues. Platoon issues are nothing to scoff at, but he’s the Mets’ guy now. I’m unsure what the plan is going forward, as far as platoons are concerned, but Duda’s going to get the majority of plate appearances. Drafting him at a discount and caddying him with a cheap option sounds pretty good, although draft day is a long ways off.

Feel free to post your favorite Duda gif/picture below.

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Landon is a senior writer at The Fantasy Fix. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter (@joneslandon).

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