Mired in off the field issues, Elijah Dukes’ arrival in D.C. allowed him to focus on baseball instead of the latest police blotter. Last year he was remarkably solid, hitting 13 home runs in a little under 350 plate appearances and posting a .382 wOBA. Even his defense was decent enough to nearly earn Dukes a three win season.
This year, everything has fallen apart.
His nose is shiny clean to his credit, but the baseball side of things has gone sour. Coming through the Rays system Dukes had a few major claims to fame: 1) he had the power of a bull, 2) the discipline of a monk, 3) the build of Ray Lewis, 4) Matt Kemp’s abilities mixed with Shawn Kemp’s sperm. These attributes accumulated into a corner outfielder with solid on-base and slugging percentage capabilities. So when you look at Dukes’ .258/.338/.416 line, you wonder what’s going on.
His walk rate is 10.4% which is above league average, but below what Dukes showed in the prior 500 plate appearances in the majors (~15.2%). He is striking out less, expanding his strike zone more often, and making more contact but not hitting for any power in doing so. His .158 ISO is easily a career low, and barely above league average.
Dukes is seeing an average of 3.7 pitches per plate appearance or 1,305 pitches in 352 plate appearances Prior to this season Dukes’ P/PA was 3.8. Not quite a radical shift in approach. What is a radical shift for Dukes is the amount that he’s swinging, 52.2% at this point; his career average is 46.3% including this year.
A passive hitter upon arrival, Dukes would look for a pitch to drive and if he had to take a walk, he would. He’s still taking some walks, but he’s no longer driving anything for extra bases. To be a successful major league hitter Dukes is going to have to get back to what got him here, and I don’t mean tomfoolery and hijinks.