MLB’s One-Season Wonders: Paul Lo Duca and 2001
With all the offense taking shape in the early 2000s, it’s easy to miss the fact that some lesser-known players had some excellent seasons. Paul Lo Duca had some notoriety playing for large markets like Los Angeles and New York. However, he only had one noteworthy season and that was in 2001.
Lo Duca was not on the radar for scouts in the early 90s. He went the junior college route initially and tore up opposing pitchers, eventually making it to Arizona State University. Still, the Dodgers drafted Lo Duca in the 25th round of the 1993 draft.
The road was a long one through the minors. With Hall of Famer Mike Piazza holding the catching position for the big league club, it took Lo Duca six years to reach the Majors. Even then, he was back up to power-hitting catcher Todd Hundley. The opportunity to start seemed to diminish.
What didn’t help his cause was the fact that he slashed .241/.306/.351 between 1998-2000 with only five home runs. Lo Duca’s OPS+ was a dismal 71. His defense at the catching position didn’t do him any favors either.
The Dodgers weren’t so keen on giving up on him. With Hundley becoming a free agent for the 2001 season and signing a big deal with Chicago, it was finally Lo Duca’s chance.
Lo Duca completely blossomed in 2001. With the swift dramatic departure of Mike Piazza a few years prior, Dodger fans were offered a breath of fresh air with the season Lo Duca had.
His stats were epic. He batted .320/.374/.543 with 25 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Lo Duca’s OPS+ was a remarkable 142. His WAR amounted to 4.6 as well. For a catcher especially, these stats are unprecedented for any era.
Shockingly, these numbers weren’t strong enough to land him in the All-Star game or even earn a Silver Slugger award. That’s how crazy the offense was in early 2000s baseball. Lo Duca did earn a few MVP votes, finishing 19th.
It seemed the Dodgers had their catcher for years to come. The next few years were good for Lo Duca, but nothing like his 2001 season.
It seemed his offensive production fell off. He never again hit 20 home runs or have an OPS+ above 102. Lo Duca was able to snag a few All-Star appearances later on in his career. He played up until 2008, with the Marlins, Nationals, and Mets.
From 2002-2008 he compiled a slash line of .283/.334/.393 with 50 home runs. You may be saying “.283 isn’t a bad average!” When your OPS+ is below average at 93, this takes into account every facet of offense, and it just wasn’t the same for Paul Lo Duca.
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