Paul Lo Duca, or, Deluca as I have already heard several people call him, was signed by the Nats for a 1 year deal. I know there should be something to say about this. I mean, he’s probably gonna start most of the games, so it is big news, right? But I just can’t get amped up for this. It’s not a great signing, he played terribly last season, but it’s not terrible either. Last season aside, he doesn’t hit terribly for a catcher. Career splits of .288/.338/.414 have been approached or exceeded every other year since 2002. The off years have been pretty crappy, like last years .272/.311/.378. A batting average of .272 seems ok, on an island. But even Long Island, NY isn’t that isolated, and an OBP like that is not good even for a backstop, neither is the OPS of .689. On a great hitting team like the Mets, you’d expect to see a little better.
As a fielder, well he can certainly catch the ball, make nice with pitchers and he used to be known as a real solid player back there. But he had shoulder problems this season and had his worst year throwing out runners. His biggest asset may be that he is a loudmouth. That can be interpreted (sometimes correctly) as leadership. But as Baseball Prospectus said in 2006 about Lo Duca
“The erstwhile heart, soul, and solar plexus of the Dodgers, for whom sun coast scribes still nurse giant, unfulfilled man-crushes, turns out to be a run-of-the-mill ballplayer when it comes to doing the things like hitting, and fielding, only the main parts of a ballplayer’s job. Leadership doesn’t compensate for shortcomings in those departments, no matter how much willfully naive romantics would like to believe otherwise”
Yeah I agree with that. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Kevin Millar and his completely-inadequate-for-a-1B/DH/LF OPS. But people love him, because he’s got a goatee and he talks alot.
The other thing that people say about Pauly is that he is a really great situational hitter, a guy that knows what to do when. He did come in 4th in sacrifice flies last year, if you’re looking for something statistically to help make that case. But I have a feeling that there really isn’t much to show that, it’s just something old baseball people say when they can’t think of something else good to say about someone who isn’t great but isn’t terrible. He also NEVER strikes out, which makes it LOOK like he really can hit.
Unfortunately, Lo Duca’s notorious for being a first half player, and being really really bad in the second half. Evidence? First half career splits are .303/.354/.436 while second half is, you guessed it, much worse at .269/.318/.387. So here’s to Jesus Flores being ready to play by the end of the summer. Just saying, I warned you, when everyone jumps on the Lo Duca bandwagon in May, I’m not looking for a ride until he does it after July.
So all of these add up to me hating the Lo Duca deal, right? Nah. I don’t hate it. It’s only a one year deal, the Nationals do need a major league level player at the position, and he is better than most alternatives. There is the chance that he has one of his better years, which could be splits of .280/.350/.420, very decent for a catcher. So I’m not so much complaining about this one, just trying to look at it realistically.