10:03 am Jul. 6, 2012
David Wright has been making his teammates look good all season.
Thursday night, for example, he had four R.B.I. and a game-winning hit in a 6-5 win over the Phillies, thereby getting Lucas Duda off the hook for atrocious fielding.
The bases-loaded single also helped bury a rare off performance by R.A. Dickey, but much of the damage against Dickey came as a result of poor fielding, particularly from Duda.
The Phillies extended their lead to 2-0 in the second inning on a double by Jimmy Rollins to right field. In the sixth, they took the 5-4 lead they'd hold until the ninth on a triple to right by Rollins. That the latter, in particular, wasn't an error reflects on the limitations of that statistic to measure defensive prowess.
The problem with Duda has always been, essentially, a race between Duda's major-league caliber bat and his Little League-caliber glove.
Such a problem wouldn't exist if Duda were a designated hitter, but the Mets play in the National League, where teams still play baseball correctly.
The problem might at least be manageable if Duda played first base, where defense, and certainly range, matters less. But Ike Davis occupies that position at the moment, and has hit enough over the past several weeks to earn more time at the position.
As it is, Duda is in right field, and that's a problem.
The Mets won an absolutely classic baseball game on Thursday night, and find themselves 45-38 on the season, tied for the wild-card lead. And if the Mets are serious about contending, they'll have to think hard about how much longer they can continue with Duda out there.
He has been bad enough defensively that his WAR for the season is nearly a win below replacement level, an astonishing feat for a player who has been above-average as a hitter. Duda's recent slump, he's hitting .184 with no home runs over the past two weeks, has dimmed his numbers somewhat, but his season OPS+ of 108 would place him seventh among American League DHs, and ninth among M.L.B. first basemen in production. Even if he comes out of his slump, he would need to hit at a much higher level than he has in the major leagues just to be a break-even proposition in right field.
Either that or he'll need to learn to field his position decently. And, sadly, that doesn't seem to be a possibility.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Yankees have a 7.5 game lead on the Red Sox, but 16 of their final 81 games will be against Boston, starting Friday night.
CC Sabathia should be back by mid-July.
Jason Kidd, who led the New Jersey Nets to their greatest glory, agreed to join the Knicks Thursday.