The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Why Lo Duca is Due for a Second Half Surge

Well, maybe not a surge, but he's definitely capable - this year, for the first time - of sustaining his first half production over the course of an entire season...

One of the reasons that has been widely cited for why the Dodgers gave up Paul Lo Duca is that, historically, his numbers fade after the All-Star break. The numbers bare this out: over the past three seasons, Lo Duca had a .323 batting average in the first half, .380 onbase percentage, and an OPS of .869. Those are excellent marks, especially for a catcher. The second half, however, has been a completely different story. From 2001 – 2003, Lo Duca managed only a .252 batting average, an Encarnacion-esque .306 onbase percentage and an anemic .680 OPS. Those are the sorts of numbers you only hope to see out of your backup catcher.

Lo Duca recognized the problem though, and did something about it. This past offseason Lo Duca cut caffeine out of his diet and went on an intensive strength and conditioning program. Paul has said that he has simply worn down late in the season in the past. For those of you who use caffeine in moderation, this might seem to be counter-intuitive, but it makes sense to me (as someone with something of a Coke habit – Coca-Cola that is). You can read more about that all over the place though. I’m no expert on that.

So far it seems that the lifestyle changes that Lo Duca made are working (granted, he’s only had 60 at bats since the All-Star break). Before this year’s All-Star break, Lo Duca was hitting .313, with an onbase percentage of .355 and an OPS of .816. Overall, that looks pretty good and pretty typical of Lo Duca. Since the break, Lo Duca’s hit .305, with a .406 onbase percentage and an OPS of .931.

We will see how it holds up over the course of the year. Examples like this are the exceptions to the mantra that everything in the game can be quantified. I'm not a believer in that; there are too many outside, unknown variables that exist to allow everything that affects a ballplayer's performance to be quantified (and an arbitrary break point like the mid-point of the season or the All-Star break isn't really all that telling). In hindsight, surely Paul’s second half performance can be quantified, but will we ever really know if Paul Lo Duca’s second half numbers this year are because of the changes in his diet, or if it’s because he likes walking on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean more than the Pacific Ocean, or because he’s so happy that his wife is pregnant and about to deliver their first baby? I doubt it. Some things can be quantified and measured, and others can’t (or are at least very difficult to quantify). Sure, we know about some of the things that Lo Duca’s doing differently, but we don’t know everything. The same holds true for every player.

I just hope that Paul keeps playing like he has since the Marlins acquired him.


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