Ike Davis and Lucas Duda have started the season on opposite ends of spectrum. While Davis has endured another slow start to the year, Duda has flourished.
But on Thursday, the two traded places in the starting lineup, with Duda moving into the cleanup spot while Davis was dropped to sixth. Manager Terry Collins said on Sunday that coaches discussed a possible swap but decided against it for fear of putting additional pressure on Duda. Nevertheless, he made the switch.
"Right now, it's for today," said Collins, who didn't commit to the lineup change past Thursday's game.
For Collins, the move is more of a concession to how the rest of his lineup clicked into place against Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. Without the switch, the lineup alternatives in Collins' mind would have forced him to hit the lefties Duda and Davis back-to-back, far from ideal against Ryu.
"It's a conglomerate of different ideas," said Collins, who wanted to load the lineup with righties, a challenge made more difficult because he also wanted to give a breather to catcher John Buck.
It's a small sample but in his first four starts, Ryu has held lefties to a .158/.200/.211 slash line in 20 plate appearances while righties have hit him for a .316/.346/.461 line in 82 plate appearances.
Collins said Duda's at-bats against Dodgers lefty Ted Lilly on Wednesday night also encouraged a move to fourth, even against Ryu.
"I thought it was important that with the way Lucas is swinging that we keep his bat in the lineup," Collins said. "And I wanted somebody in the middle of the lineup in case they go to that pen can protect David [Wright] a little bit and do some damage. Lucas seemed to be the guy."
Collins also hopes the move takes some heat off Davis, whose struggles have mimicked his awful start from a season ago.
"We're heading into May here and we need to get him swinging the bat like he's capable of," Collins said. "I don't know if he's trying to put too much pressure on himself to hit homers so I just said, you know what, maybe it's time to get him to relax a little bit."
By virtue of his position in the batting order, Davis has come to the plate with runners on base 41 times this season, second only to Wright. In those plate appearances, he has batted with 51 runners aboard. By contrast, Duda has just 30 plate appearances with runners on (a total of 40 baserunners).
Consequently, Duda has just eight RBIs despite his early season production. Moving Duda would up would theoretically give him more run-scoring opportunities. However, despite their massive differences in production, neither Davis nor Duda have done much with their chances to knock in runners.
Davis has driven in just 5.9 percent of runners on base during his plate appearances with Duda barely ahead at 7.5 percent. For context, Buck is knocking in runners at 27.3 percent, best amongst the team's starters.
Carl Crawford LF
Nick Punto 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Matt Kemp CF
Andre Ethier RF
Juan Uribe 3B
Ramon Hernandez C
Justin Sellers SS
Hyun-Jin Ryu LHP
Ruben Tejada SS
Daniel Murphy 2B
David Wright 3B
Lucas Duda LF
Marlon Byrd RF
Ike Davis 1B
Anthony Recker C
Collin Cowgill CF
Jeremy Hefner RHP