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The 'Duca of Earl (and walk-offs)

If I told you that the Mets had just obtained a guy who is a career .316 hitter with runners in scoring position? How about if I told you that the Mets just traded for a hitter who has consistently ranked among the toughest in baseball to strike out? Or if I mentioned that the Mets just dealt for a player who was selected to the NL All-Star team the last three seasons, with the last honor coming via a vote by his peers?

So, although he's on the down side age wise, his throwing arm isn't as good as it used to be, and he doesn't provide much power, there are a lot of good things that Paul Lo Duca brings to the New York Mets. For example:

He'll sacrifice his body for the good of the team

The Dodgers and Braves squared off on August 23, 2002 and Lo Duca made an impact both on the start and finish of this game. Three pitches after being dusted by Greg Maddux, Lo Duca made him pay with a first-inning home run. The Braves rallied to tie the game, 3-3 in the ninth, but their bullpen gagged the game away in the last half. A walk, a stolen base, another walk, an errant pickoff throw and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Lo Duca against Kevin Gryboski. When Gryboski came too far inside with a sinker, LoDuca ducked away, but not far enough. The pitch grazed Lo Duca on his elbow pad, good for a walk-off hit-by-pitch, one of 41 times he's been hit in his career.

(for those curious, the details of the only Mets win via walk-off HBP that I've documented can be found here: http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2005/07/boston-bean-party.html)

He doesn't give up

Why was Lo Duca one of the most popular Dodgers of the last quarter-century? Again, let's channel 2002, shall we? On September 28, the Dodgers were all but done in the wild card hunt, but they weren't quite finished mathematically at 2 1/2 back with three to play. With the Giants winning their game late, the Dodgers needed a victory to stave off elimination for at least another day. It was a frustrating night for the Dodgers, who battled the Padres through nine scoreless innings, leaving a combined seven men on base in the last three innings of regulation.

Who hit the first pitch of the last of the 10th into the seats for his first career walk-off home run? I'll give you a hint. His initials are P L and D.

He's good against the Braves

Lo Duca's career batting average is .285. His career batting average against the Braves is .292. Mets fans will think that's a good thing. Remember the Braden Looper implosion in Atlanta in which contributed to blowing a late lead not once, but twice? The Braves tend to always win games like that, but Lo Duca brings karma from a team that turned the tables on the Braves in that regard last season.

On June 29, 2005, the Braves led the Marlins by two runs in the ninth inning, but Chris Reitsma couldn't close the game out, yielding four straight hits to allow the Marlins to tie the game. With two outs, Lo Duca had a chance at the winning hit when he hit a line drive that hit Reitsma, but the Braves reliever recovered the ball and threw Lo Duca out to send the game to extra innings.

Atlanta thought it had the game won again in the 13th when Andruw Jones put the Braves ahead 5-4 with a home run. In the bottom of the frame, the Marlins put the tying run on base with Lo Duca up. Adam Bernero got to within a strike of closing the game out, but Lo Duca singled to center, tying the game up and Juan Encarnacion followed with a walk-off single. The win was one of the seasons best for the Marlins (news accounts described the post-game celebration as "postseason-like) before the team tanked in late September.

So while you can certainly make the case that the Mets would have been better served to sign Msrs. Hernandez or Molina, one can also be made that this will be a far more worthwhile move than it reads on paper. Just knowing his walk-off history will tell you that.

True former Metlins know... While Lo Duca is taking care of the Braves, his teammate for another season, Carlos Delgado, can take care of another division rival, the Phillies. Delgado hit .386 with 13 RBI in 19 games against Philadelphia in 2005, and had a walk-off single against them on May 24 (Lo Duca had an RBI against them that day as well).

PS: Newbies can check out the rest of the site at http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com

PPS: If you're reading this on Monday, scroll down. I have another item below posted last Friday that many of you might have missed...

Comments

Bryan Salz said…
Apparently he did 'give up' in 2002 as he posted stats of .233 .268 .341 after the all star break. You and your type like to point out a couple of examples of stuff LoDuca did to show all the 'intangibles' he brings to the table. But lets face the real cold hard facts, shall we? He's 33, declining both offensively and defensively, and his emotional contribution to teams has proven to be overrated because LA made the playoffs without him while Florida underachieved with him. See, these are facts, not opinions based off empty rhetoric like this recent blog was. He is nothing special and we could have just signed Hernandez or Molina without surrending a very good pitching prospect. Or we could have just used Ramon Castro, who would have probably at least matched the production of LoDuca or even topped it. Is LoDuca so much better then Castro that he's worth 12 mil over the next two years and a very good prospect? No.
Anonymous said…
Gabby is not a good prospect

Omar gets all of what was mentioned above for nothing and the Mets get to keep the draft pick that they would have lost with a FA Catcher signing.Omar is a thief and he gets away with it everytime.
Anonymous said…
Nah, Gaby's not a Good Prospect, only our 2nd Best before the trade
Bryan Salz said…
Uh, the point is that we didn't have to sign those guys. We have Ramon Castro. Or we could have brought back Mike Piazza, who believe it or not, posted better offensive stats then LoDuca did last year. LoDuca isn't much of an upgrade defensively over Piazza either. See what I'm getting at here? We could have gotten good production from the Catching position without surrending a very solid prospect in Gaby Hernandez? Can Minaya ever give us an upgrade without significantly overpaying both trading wise and money wise? I don't think he's capable of such a thing.
Anonymous said…
will all you negative met fans shut up and just wait until opening day for the full 25 man roster. omar will make sure we improve from last year and from the looks of it with delgado and wagner were going to be a lot better so who cares whos behind the plate. were going to get some nasty relievers and its going to be fine. its time to end the braves streak.
Anonymous said…
Has anyone noticed that while Omar has traded some prospects he has improved the team w/o giving up proven major leaguer pitchers like Seo and Heilman? It is very possible that Gabby Hernandez, Petit and Jacobs will all be All Stars although I think it is unlikely. Does anyone remember Geoff Goetz or Ed Yarnell the prospects given up to get Mike Piazza. How about Ty Wigginton and Matt Peterson? I am sure the Yankees regretted trading highly thought of Marty Jantzen for David Cone.

AJ Burnett panned out eventually for the Marlins but after the Mets had gotten close 4 excellent years out of Al Leiter. I'd say a good trade.

It is very possible that all of the guys we sent to Florida will pan out but far more likely that only one will become a serviceable major leaguer and most likely not for 3-5 years. In the meantime the team has been upgraded significantly while not touching any of the young, major league proven talent.
Anonymous said…
Most Mets fans are still hurting over the Kazmir trade. But lets face it, Hernandez is a A ball prospect. We just got a 3x Allstar for a 3rd round right hander. Whats not to like about that. We still have front line prospects in Humber and Pelfrey and some back end guys in Bannister and Soler. As far as Ramon Castro, this guy barely hit .200 for the Marlins in 2004 and is a back up on a .500 team at best. He is not a championship caliber player. Do u remember watching this guy run the bases last year? I like LoDuca hes a fighter and a respected guy who handles pitching very well, a coach on the feild type
Anonymous said…
Three things I like about LoDuca: 1) he brings a positive presence to the dugout; 2) he handles a pitching staff well; 3) he is a good hitter with plate discipline.

Some of you arguing that the Mets gave up one of their top pitching prospects (in Single A) need to remember that by signing Hernandez or Molina, the Mets would have to surrender a draft pick.
Anonymous said…
Those who want Piazza should remember his woeful production with men in scoring position. He was a serious rally killer the past couple years. I would love to see how he and Lo Duca stack up against each other in that regard.

And believe me, I love Mike and appreciate all he did for the Mets, but he really cannot catch anymore.

Check out Lo Duca's CS numbers against Mike's. How many games is that little stat going to help the team win?
TheCzar said…
"You and your type" -- Just curious, what is Mark's type???
Bryan Salz said…
"Has anyone noticed that while Omar has traded some prospects he has improved the team w/o giving up proven major leaguer pitchers like Seo and Heilman? It is very possible that Gabby Hernandez, Petit and Jacobs will all be All Stars although I think it is unlikely. Does anyone remember Geoff Goetz or Ed Yarnell the prospects given up to get Mike Piazza. How about Ty Wigginton and Matt Peterson? I am sure the Yankees regretted trading highly thought of Marty Jantzen for David Cone.

AJ Burnett panned out eventually for the Marlins but after the Mets had gotten close 4 excellent years out of Al Leiter. I'd say a good trade."

The difference with this trade and the prior ones are two major things: Either the prospects that were traded weren't very good to begin with, or if they were actually good (AJ Burnett) we got back a very good player in return. In this trade, we have given up a very good prospect for a nothing special player. Paul LoDuca is extremely ordinary, contrary to popular belief. He routinely fades in the 2nd half, which will kill us in our race for the division. LoDuca's splits from 2002 to 2004:

Pre All Star .302 .356 .426 .782

Post All Star .249 .307 .345 .652

While you may not believe Gaby Hernandez is worth holding onto, surely you have to acknowledge that he is a solid prospect and we could get more for him then an overrated old catcher. That's the point. Also, alot of the fans on this board really think lowly of prospects. It makes me think you would have had no problem trading David Wright in 2003 when he was just a Single A prospect and had yet to post the monster #'s he put up in AA and AAA in 2004. After all, he was just a low end prospect who probably wouldn't be able to contribute till 2006 or 2007 at the earliest, right? Stop thinking so lowly of prospects, guys, and if you do, please understand that if they are young and have great stats, they should be traded for solid players, not a 34 year old catcher whose been overrated because of things that can't be proven by any statistic but just by word of mouth.(Ex: He's such a team leader and the LA Dodgers will not be able to survive without him, like making the playoffs right after he was dealt for the first time since Piazza was their catcher. Or Florida underachieving with him, etc.) You get my point. He's mediocre at best and not worth Gaby Hernandez. Stop listening to the media hype as they have been proven to be wrong plenty of times but just never admit it.
Anonymous said…
Hitting prospects are much easier to predict and no one that I know of thought David Wright was a low end prospect.

Gaby Hernandez clearly has talent and promise but so did many of the other pitching prospects I mentioned. Pitchers are a bit of a crap shoot and he could be a star or a bust. Anyone remember Generation K? How about Jesus Sanchez who was in the Al Leiter trade? The Yankees thought enough of Ed Yarnell to trade Mike Lowell, their best prospect at the time, for him. He was a bust.

My point is Gaby Hernandez is a good A ball prospect but he is not Scott Kazmir and by the reaction on these blogs you would think he was. No doubt trading Kazmir was a mistake but it will take us 3-5 years to know if this was.

Hernandez is young but he did have problems in High A ball this year which may be nothing or may be a sign he is not that good. Who knows?

Mets fans have been spoiled for a lot of years by having a great offensive catcher in Piazza. LoDuca is a better hitter than most catchers.

If anyone raises the idea of Ramon Castro as the everyday catcher again I am going to lose. The guy is 30, has never started regularly and had a nice 6-8 week run. There is nothing in his past to suggest he can start on a regular basis.

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