With the return of Yoenis Cespedes looming, the New York Mets are faced with a decision that would see them place either Curtis Granderson or Lucas Duda on the bench. If Granderson was to ride the pine, Cespedes would simply slide back into left field, pushing Michael Conforto to center. If the Mets decided to sit Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce would likely move back to first base where he saw action earlier this season, and Curtis Granderson would become the everyday rightfielder.
After last night’s disaster, where the Mets loaded the bases in the ninth inning with no outs and down just one run, it seems apparent that Curtis Granderson will become the odd man out upon Cespedes’ return. In his at-bat, Duda laid off some tough sliders in the ninth inning en route to drawing a walk from Padres lefty Brad Hand. Duda has been susceptible to sliders tailing away in the past, so his demonstration of patience is a positive. On the other hand, Granderson stuck out against Hand with the bases loaded and nobody out. A fly ball, and perhaps even a grounder that could turn into a double play would’ve tied the game and likely led the Mets to a second straight victory over San Diego. Yet Granderson failed to come up in an important spot, giving Terry Collins further reason to remove him from the lineup. His .168 batting average and dreadful .565 OPS are more evidence that maybe the three-time all-star has lost a step in a major way. Numbers aside though, the Mets would be better off keeping Granderson in the lineup and instead sitting Lucas Duda.
Looking at the numbers, it’s pretty obvious that although Lucas Duda hasn’t been setting the world on fire in 2017, he has been much more productive than Curtis Granderson. Duda has played twenty less games, yet he has hit just as many home runs as Granderson. In terms of WAR, Granderson currently sits around -.5, meaning he has played at sub-replacement level. However, the month of May has shown Granderson’s strong improvement from April, and also Lucas Duda’s regression.
Since the calendar flipped, Granderson has doubled his OPS from .395 in April to .791 thus far in May. His slugging has also jumped up to .476 in May, which is right around his career average, showing that the veteran is getting back on track. In April, his BABIP was .154, which would indicate that he was unlucky at times when squaring the ball up. Maybe the most promising aspect of Granderson’s month of May has been his improved walk rate. He is walking in 11% of his plate appearances this month as opposed to just 5.4% last month. When Granderson was starring as a dynamic leadoff hitter in 2015, he was extremely patient and often got on base via the walk. His increased discipline and refined eye have increased his performance.
As Granderson has been trending up, Duda has seen some of his numbers fall since April, but not all of them. Duda’s walk rate and strikeout rate have both improved, resulting in a nice bump in his on-base percentage. However, his batting average has fallen and his slugging percentage has drastically decreased from .571 in April to .313 in May. Duda’s BABIP in May is also suspiciously high at .292. Based on his career batting average of .246, Duda’s average is likely to continue falling once his BABIP inevitably returns to normal. Duda has yet to hit a home run this month, albeit he has only played in 10 games.
Another aspect to consider is how Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda individually effect the overall dynamic of the team. Granderson provides more speed than Duda and arguably better defense assuming he will be playing right field, not center. Duda is a slightly bigger power threat at the plate, but Granderson also can provide plenty of pop at times. In the clubhouse, Granderson is a great leader and role model who sets good examples and also keeps a positive attitude, even when the team is struggling. That’s not to say Lucas Duda doesn’t embody a positive attitude, but when he tells the media after a tough game, “I’ve been bad at baseball for the last week. I’ve been terrible…”, it’s hard to see how he remains positive.
The easy decision would be to remove Curtis Granderson from his everyday spot in the outfield and allow Lucas Duda to continue starting at first base. However, the metrics show that Curtis Granderson is on the verge of getting his bat going, whereas Lucas Duda may be set for a slump. Granderson may be having the worst year of his career to this point, but he still holds greater potential value to the New York Mets than Lucas Duda does.