Lucas Duda And Movement Before the Pitch

Lucas Duda has made some changes. Though you’ll recognize the syntax from our look at Domonic Brown and his swing changes, Duda’s changes are more subtle. You might not even see them the first time around. But look a little closer — or, earlier — and you might notice a difference in approach. Maybe it’ll allow the big guy to tap into his power better this year.

Dave Hudgens, the Mets hitting coach, agrees that it’s not easy to nail down exactly what has changed. The two of them “did not mess with the position of his hands” once he was swinging. They did work on “getting his front foot down a little earlier,” but that wasn’t all of it either. In a quote to Marc Carig at Newsday, Duda himself said the swing was a result of compromise with his hitting coach, saying that “movement is part” of his swing, but now “it’s minimized.” Hudgens said it was less of a compromise and more of a collaborative work in progress.

Let’s take a look at the swing itself. The swing on the left is from a September 15th game and it produced a double against the Brewers. The swing on the right is from the double he hit Wednesday.

Dud12Duda13

Hard to tell a difference. Maybe his foot action is a little different, but once his swing gets going this season, it looks virtually identical to his swing last season.

“When you make changes, sometimes you overexaggerate at first,” Hudgens admitted, but maintained that there has been one focus all along this spring. If Lucas can “get into position to hit earlier,” he’s more ready to recognize the pitch. It’s about movement, yes. But it’s about the movement before the pitch.

Let’s take a look now at the moments before the pitch arrives. One the left is the same at-bat September 15th last year, but on the right we’ll have to take a look at the pitch before the pitch Duda hit out Wednesday. Blame the new catcher-butt view.

DudaPre12DudaPre13

Now the difference becomes a bit starker. There’s less waggle on the right. He seems to be honing in on the ready position faster. It’s all less… busy.

Hitters work with their hitting coaches daily, and so it’s hard to get a grasp on a young hitter’s swing on a daily basis. But when their words link up with what you can see in the pictures, you might be able to say with confidence — yeah, these two guys are working on limiting his pre-pitch movement. They want him ready, quicker.

It makes sense — if you’re brain is working on getting into the ready position, it’s not working on recognizing the pitch. If Lucas Duda has a big year this season, it might just be because he’s shaved a few seconds off of his pre-pitch routine.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

16 Responses to “Lucas Duda And Movement Before the Pitch”

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  1. Steven says:

    The swing on the left is against Brewers, not Marlins.

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  2. rotobanter says:

    Nice Eno. I agree – it’s like he’s doing the same thing but more crisp and more honed in.

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  3. I’ve thought, just through observation w/ no real in-depth analysis, that his stance has closed up a bit from last year. I think that it’s illustrated in his swing versus the Padres lefty this week. Last year, he opens up on that swing 9 times out of 10.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      That was something Hudgens mentioned in his piece, but it wasn’t easily demonstrable in GIF form. He cited it as part of his ‘go to all fields’ approach with Duda.

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  4. Danny Knobgobbler says:

    He’s also keeping his top hand on the bat throughout his swing on the Wednesday clip. The difference could just be inside vs outside pitch – I haven’t seen any other footage of him this season to know.

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    • Bip says:

      In the 9/15 clip it almost looks like he’s already taken his hand off the bat at the point of contact. It looks like he’s throwing the bat at the ball, something reminiscent of little league. The Wednesday one looks a lot more like a big league swing in that regard.

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    • Adam McInturff says:

      I’m glad someone said something about the inside versus outside pitch he’s swinging at in the two videos. The 2012 video is a RH sinker or something down and away meant to get him diving out. The 2013 video is against an inside cutter against Clayton Richard–a sameside pitcher–where, to drive the ball, he’d have to get his front foot down early and clear his hips inside the ball anyway to pull it with authority like he did in the GIF.

      All that snarkyness aside this is cool to see. Baseball really is a game of inches. Very slight adjustments to things like weight shift, weigiht distribution, the direction and height of someone’s hands through their load, etc, can make a world of difference.

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  5. Dave G. says:

    The pitch against the Brewers also shows Duda’s tendency to really drop down low during his swing, which I think saps some power. Yes, some of that is location of the pitch, but a lot of hitters just go get a low pitch by extending their arms. The pitch on the right is up, but I like that duda seems to be staying more upright in his approach this year, even on lower pitches.

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  6. Cidron says:

    the first set, left pic it appears he has a “sudden lunge” at the ball, rather than a smooth swing… which doesnt appear to be in any of the others.

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  7. Dude says:

    In the second GIF, he barely got his toe-tap down. Not sure if it was on purpose, but if it was, perhaps he is trying not to shift his weight to much. Staying back a bit more?

    He is also much more balanced in the second GIF on the swing. The toe tap also seems to be slightly higher. Also, he kept his second hand on the bat longer.

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  8. Tim says:

    In the first one he basically lunges backwards with his butt. The second is a much cleaner twist. It’s not hard to tell the difference at all.

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  9. Dave S says:

    I just feel there is a ton of info to mine from these sorts of things.

    It might be better if we could get gif’s of same batter vs same pitcher for comparison. Yes… I know its early to get those sort of “same combo / different year” comps.

    Might also be good if we could identify and isolate key actions of the pitch/swing… and I have little idea of what those key actions would be… and they are all related.

    where are batter’s hands and feet when pitcher’s lead foot comes off ground?
    where are batter’s hands and feet when ball leaves pitcher’s hand?
    where are batter’s hands and feet when bat meets ball (if it does)?
    What type of pitch was it?
    where are batter’s hands and feet at the end of his swing?
    Does batter’s upper hand come off bat during swing? at end of swing? in middle of swing?

    thats just from batter perspective… and I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of how to look at that motion data. Because, like most fans I suspect, I have little idea of the “key” parts of batter or pitcher motions.

    Would love to see more info in this area.

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  10. Jon L. says:

    I think Duda’s head moves differently in these two images. On the left, his bobs up and down a bit more before the pitch. On the right, it’s more of a steady movement in towards home plate. I would think it’s harder to focus and pick up the pitch if your eyeline is erratically shifting, so maybe that’s one of the benefits of limiting movement before the pitch.

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  11. Pat Andriola says:

    Simple: there’s an initial leg kick in the second gif that’s not as dramatic in the first (it is there, but really slightly).

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  12. YourMom says:

    It is very subtle, but the one on the right he absolutely looks more like a professional hitter. Just his mechanics look much cleaner than they do on the left. The one on the left looks almost chaotic even though the movements are so close. It just looks like he hadn’t figured out exactly how he wanted to swing at pitches in that shot.

    Yes…it is VERY close looking, but like others have said you can just tell in the right that he is more fluid in that swing and is taking the cut much smoother and all in one motion. The one on the left looks like he has a bit of a tic, or something that stalls/starts his motion through the swing, where the one on the right looks like it is ingrained into him how to swing.

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