In a season full of outstanding offensive performances, perhaps the most surprising Ducks outbreak last year came from Dan Lyons. The shortstop, who entered 2015 a .243 career hitter, hit .301 with 73 RBIs, both career highs and good for fourth in the Atlantic League.
It was hard to find a category in which Lyons wasn’t ranked highly. He finished second in the league in slugging percentage (.462), third in runs scored (74), total bases (215), and on-base percentage (.375). He was fourth in triples (7) and extra-base hits (46). Lyons’ 11 home runs and 140 hits were both career highs. However, his 131 games played was his most important career high, he said. Lyons played in 120 games in 2014 and 107 in 2013.
“I put myself in a position to succeed a lot better,” Lyons, 31, said of last season. “I stayed healthy and was able to overcome injuries a lot faster. I think having all of that come together gave me a little more confidence. Having great hitters around me and guys getting on base to put me in a position to succeed really helped out too.”
That newfound confidence was evident to manager Kevin Baez. “He’s had confidence before, but it’s one of those things where everything worked for him and it took off,” Baez said. “He worked hard in the offseason. He’s a good player and it’s nice to see everything come together and work for him. Defensively and offensively, he just did it all for us.”
Lyons, eager to approach the same offensive stratosphere he did last season, said he tried to keep it simple in the offseason, doing the same type of things that led to his 2015 success.
“I just focused a lot on working out, staying healthy, seeing the ball, and hitting the ball,” Lyons said. “You try and do too much and things start to get away from you.
While duplicating his offensive numbers may not be a guaranteed, given his career history, Lyons figures to remain a solid defensive shortstop. As his bat flourished, his glove skills also remained solid. He had the highest fielding percentage (.976) and recorded the second-most assists (355) and putouts (183) among all Atlantic League shortstops who played at least 100 games. In 124 games at short, Lyons committed only 13 errors.
Week in review
The Ducks dropped the first two games of the season with the Somerset Patriots, falling 9-3 Thursday and 5-2 Friday. The Patriots, who eliminated the Ducks from the playoffs last season and have won both the first and second half Liberty Division Championships in the last two seasons, figure to be the chief thorn in the Ducks side yet again.
The Ducks won last year’s regular season series 11 games to 9, but the Patriots won the Atlantic League Championship.
“I feel like we’re just as good as they are,” Outfielder and DH Lew Ford said during spring training. “I know they’re looking at us as one of the team’s that they know they’re going to have to beat. We’re not necessarily chasing them, but they are the reigning champions and we want to be the champions, so that’s the team we have to beat.”
After today’s series finale with the Patriots, the Ducks travel to Connecticut for their first three games with the expansion New Britain Bees. The Ducks home opener is scheduled for Thursday against Southern Marlyand.