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Friday, June 27, 2014
Duda among hardest-hitting hitters

By Mark Simon

Lucas Duda is finally starting to reap the rewards of hitting the ball hard.

Duda homered again on Thursday, his third home run in his last four games and his fourth home run in his last seven.

He’s hitting .368 in his last 11 games with the four home runs and eight RBIs.

You may have heard a reference on last night’s Mets telecast to how Duda ranks among the sport’s leaders in hard-hit ball rate.

ESPN uses a video-review service, one used by major league teams and media, which rates every batted ball as being hit either hard, medium or soft. They have visually-available criteria (was contact made on the sweet spot of the bat?) by which they determine the level they choose. Major-league teams have a tool known as Hit F/X and may use “exit velocity” as their primary criteria. That tool is not available publicly.

We’ve been sharing these rankings on Twitter throughout the season.

Duda has produced a hard-hit ball in 23 percent of his opportunities (at-bats plus sacrifice flies) this season. That ranks eighth among the 210 players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, fifth-best in the National League. Two Pirates, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, rank in the top three, sandwiched around Braves slugger Evan Gattis.

Duda’s 2014 rate matches that of Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, arguably the game’s top slugger, and well exceeds that of former teammate Ike Davis (14 percent).

The next-best Met among the regulars is Curtis Granderson at 18 percent (Bobby Abreu is at 20 percent in fewer than 200 plate appearances). By season’s end, the major-league average should be near 17 percent (it’s about 16 percent now).

The common bond among most of the top performers in this stat is a high batting average and good power numbers. Hard-hit balls turn out to be base hits about 70 percent of the time.

Duda’s success rate in 2014 is a bit below that. He’s 33 for 53 when hitting the ball hard (.622 batting average). Last season, Duda was a hair above average at 41 for 57 (.719).

Citi Field may have something to do with Duda’s issues this season. Duda is 13 for 23 (.565) when hitting a ball hard at home this season. The outs include two deep flies to right, two to the “death valley” that is right center field and three flies to left.

The Mets actually have the lowest batting average in baseball on hard-hit balls this season -- .635 (15 points behind the next-worst, the Cleveland Indians).

The hard-hit balls have been falling in the right places for Duda of late. His last seven have gone for base hits, the last two for home runs.

Duda was able to take advantage of a short left field wall in Pittsburgh with his opposite-field homer on Thursday. It was the first homer he’s hit along the left field line in his career. He’ll try to do so again Friday.