Because there was enough overall resemblance between their swings — particularly the leg kick — Long felt he could use Trout as a model for Duda.
“Is Mike Trout stronger than Lucas Duda? I don’t think so,” Long said. “Does he have more bat speed? I don’t think. Does he have a higher leg kick than Duda? Yes. I wanted a hitter that actually had a leg kick, and Trout fit the bill.”
Long rarely sits players down to show them footage of other players’ swings, rather than of their own. But Trout’s videos had something to offer.
“Obviously, Trout is one of the best in the game,” Duda said. “If you can emulate him and go on what he does, you’ve got a good shot.”
So to mimic Trout, Duda told himself to let the ball travel a split-second farther into the strike zone before swinging. That small but vital change became the key to Duda’s turnaround.
“It allows you to see pitches a little bit longer,” Duda said. “It also allows you to lay off balls. Essentially, it gives you a little bit more time to decipher if you should swing or should take.”
Long, a former Yankees hitting coach, said Derek Jeter, a .310 hitter over his 20-year career, was one of the best at connecting with the ball deep in the strike zone, one of the reasons he generally avoided long slumps in his career. Long said that where Duda was making contact with the ball in his swing was at the root of his inconsistencies as a hitter.
“I’m a big Lucas Duda fan,” Long said. “I know how good he is. He’s the most secret weapon out there.”
The Mets know that Duda can be streaky at the plate. Since he became the team’s everyday first baseman in 2014, through Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers, he has hit .249 with 342 strikeouts, but with a solid .832 on-base plus slugging percentage because of his ability to hit for power and draw walks.
“Everybody in baseball is streaky, and some guys are a bit more streaky than others,” Duda said, adding later: “It’s always a work in progress. It’s never a finished product. I’m always going to be jagged around the edges.”
Often overlooked because he is reserved and quiet, and at times hampered by injuries, Duda, at 31, is a better hitter than he is generally given credit for. He will also be a free agent after this season, and the Mets have a top first-base prospect, Dominic Smith, waiting in the minor leagues. As a result, it is unclear if Duda will be a Met beyond this season.
But for now he is, and the Mets, struggling in so many ways, need him.
“When Lucas Duda gets hot, he’s one of those guys that carries the club,” Manager Terry Collins said last week. “He can be a little streaky, but when he’s hot, he’s dangerous.”
When Duda returned to the lineup in May from a stint on the disabled list, he started off slowly because, he said, he was too quick with his body in his swing. Long started thinking about Trout. And that led to the video comparison and the change in Duda’s technique.
“If Lucas lets the ball travel, because he’s so strong and has so much bat speed, it’s over,” Long said.
On Tuesday night, in Texas, the Mets played another disheartening game, one that ended in a 10-8 loss that left them 24-32. But Duda went 2 for 5, driving in a run, and he went 1 for 4 on Wednesday, hitting a double, to leave his batting average at .273. He also has 10 home runs.
Thanks to Long’s eye and Trout’s example, he has been thriving. If only more of his teammates could join in.
Continue reading the main story