Ike Davis has been on fire yet Mets still have offensive issues

If at the end of Spring Training, someone had told you that the day before the All-Star break that the Mets were seven games above .500 you probably would not have believed them. And if they told you the Mets would accomplish this with Ike Davis batting .205 with a .669 OPS you would have suggested that they lay off the crack pipe. Yet here we are.

It seems there are two conclusions that we can draw from this information. The first is that in baseball you just never know what is going to happen. Second, Davis is not as integral to the team’s success as we believed back in late March.

Yesterday ESPN’s Mark Simon tweeted that the “Mets are 43-26 when Davis starts and 2-13 when he doesn’t.” That seems to fly in the face of thinking that he is not integral to the team’s success. But here is a case where the numbers are very misleading. Instead, this is more like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

After June 5th’s game, Davis had a .160/.226/.274 mark yet the Mets were 31-25. How important do you really think Davis and his .501 OPS were to the Mets being six games over .500 after 56 games? And to further drive home the point, Davis has been on fire since June 6th – with a .996 OPS – yet the Mets are 15-14 during his hot stretch.

The really important numbers here are the team’s record versus lefty and righty pitchers. The Mets are 34-19 versus RHP and 12-20 versus LHP. The games Davis sat out were versus southpaws. It’s not that the Mets become impotent because Davis is benched, rather they come up short because a lefty is on the mound and the team features at five LHB in its preferred starting lineup.

Last year the Mets were four games under .500 against both LHP (18-22) and RHP (59-63). The difference between last year and this year has nothing to do with Davis. In his brief time last year, Davis had a .493 OPS versus lefties. This year he has a .543 mark versus southpaws.

Instead the difference is that neither Daniel Murphy nor Lucas Duda is approaching their success from a season ago. Murphy had a .755 OPS versus LHP in 2011 and Duda checked in with a .715 mark. This year those numbers are .609 and .594, respectively.

Right now it is a no-brainer to put in Scott Hairston (.952 OPS) when the opposing team starts a southpaw. The problem is that there are no other good bench options who bat righty. Mike Nickeas comes in but his .541 OPS versus lefties is horrible. And when the Mets did sit Davis, they often played Justin Turner, who has a .617 OPS versus LHP and a .610 OPS in games where he played first base and those are numbers to be replaced, not subbed in.

The Mets need Murphy and/or Duda to hit southpaws like they did last year or they need to trade for a RHB – whether he plays C, 1B or OF – to spell Josh Thole, Davis or Duda when a portsider is on the mound.

This is why it was frustrating when the front office overreacted to the bullpen issues and made a move to the 40-man roster to call up LHP Justin Hampson. To do that, they dropped Vinny Rottino from the 40-man roster and lost him to the Indians. Rottino is a career journeyman but in 31 PA versus LHP this season, he had 2 HR and an .835 OPS.

Rottino made nine starts for the Mets this year – all against LHP – and the Mets were 4-5 in those games. No one holds any illusions of Rottino being a star yet his presence in the lineup made the Mets respectable against lefties.

The Mets miss Rottino. They are just 2-4 versus lefty starters since DFAing him and one of those wins was Thursday night when they came-from-behind versus Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning to pull out the victory.

Some will point out that the Mets hope to get Jason Bay back soon and he can be the bat versus LHP that the Mets need. There is some truth to that remark, as Bay has a .776 OPS versus southpaws in 2012. The advantage that Rottino had over Bay is that the Mets felt no need to start Rottino versus RHP. Unfortunately, they do not share that feeling about Bay.

This year Bay has a .558 OPS versus RHP.

Whatever advantage comes to playing Bay versus lefties is more than neutralized by his play against righties. Until the point the Mets use him as a platoon player – like they did with Rottino – he will be a negative for the club overall.

Therefore, a platoon righty bat remains a glaring need for this year’s club.

So, it is great to see Davis finally hitting like we expected him to when the season began. In his last 101 PA, Davis has a .292/.366/.629 mark. Even more encouraging is that he is succeeding with a .302 BABIP, so this is not some unsustainable fluke stretch. The key is that Davis has a 19.8 K% in this stretch. When he was floundering early in the year, he had an ugly 29.5 K%.

Here is hoping that Davis continues to hit like this the rest of the season. But while we can root for this homegrown player to be a factor for the team in the second half, let us not overstate his importance to the team’s success in the first half of the 2012 season.

And while we are at it, let us hope that Sandy Alderson picks up a hitter who thrives versus southpaws.

14 comments for “Ike Davis has been on fire yet Mets still have offensive issues

  1. mikey
    July 8, 2012 at 11:49 am

    the mets 8th in all of baseball in runs scored. They have average over 5 runs a game since mid may.

    • July 8, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Hey Mikey – thanks for reading and commenting!

      This season has been a lot of fun and no one is suggesting that there isn’t a bunch of talent on the team. But until the Mets address their weakness versus LHP their upside is limited.

  2. Name
    July 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I understand why Terry wants to keep protecting Ike now, but i think he has enough confidence (and stats) now that he needs to be playing everyday and only taking the day off for rest and not because it is a LHP on the mound.

    • July 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Until they make a trade for a RHB, I’d like to see Terry rotate and give Davis, Duda or Murphy the day off versus LHP. It’s just too much to have all three in the lineup at the same time. I think Collins’ mistake was giving two or more of those guys the day off at the same time, along with playing Nickeas.

  3. mikey
    July 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Its simply replacing Mike Nickeas.

  4. AJ
    July 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Here’s the question I have about Ike Davis – is he really as good as Mets fans want to think he is?

    Davis had a really nice rookie season, which gave cause to hope he would blossom into a premiere big league first baseman, providing solid defense and a power bat. The start of his sophomore year seemed to justify the high expectations. Unfortunately, thirty-something games into the season he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. This year he’s back and it seems like everyone just expected he would pick up where he left off and be the player we wanted to believe he would be after his rookie season. In other words, we’ve been thinking of him as a proven talent when in fact his talent has yet to be truly proven.

    There have been many players over the years who had fine first seasons only to disappoint the next year, giving rise to the term “sophomore jinx”. The performance of these players in subsequent years then determines if they are real talents who can make adjustments in response to the adjustments the rest of the league makes to them, or if they are what we have come to call a “flash in the pan”. I’m not saying that’s what Ike Davis is. I’m just saying that we don’t really know yet. Davis still has to prove himself, and I hope that he does.

    • July 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      The Mets are going to have to choose either Davis or Duda. In their careers, Davis has a .772 OPS and Duda has a .785 OPS. Whichever one they pick to play 1B will be a solid player.

      • AJ
        July 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm

        Wow, good luck to management if/when they make that choice! Brian, you were pretty bullish on Duda at the end of last season. If you had to guess which player had the best future ahead – Ike or Duda – who would you choose and why?

        • July 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

          If forced to pick right now, I would go with Davis and trade Duda. I think their hitting stats are very similar and I think Ike has a chance to be an above-average fielder at first base (he has not been that so far in 2012, though) while Duda is probably an average 1B at best.

          But if someone insisted on Davis, I would have no problem trading him and keeping Duda.

  5. Metsense
    July 9, 2012 at 8:10 am

    The Mets biggest offensive weakness is at catcher. A full time RH hitting catcher would help this team. Carlos Ruiz is not available and too costly and all the others are on contenders.So the Mets are going to have to settle for a platoon catcher. The Brewers have a relief pitcher (K Rod) and two RH catchers (LuCroy or Maldonado). Kick their tires. The Hernandez deal doesn’t make sense because of his 2013 obligation. The Mets have announced that Bay will play so to improve the righty lineup Hairston should platoon with Duda. Statistically Turner should not platoon with Davis (but TC does it and Turner gets 4 hits!). 13 position players , with Bay taking Quints spot, Valdespin sent down for reliever, leaves Cedeno as backup mid inf and Turner RH backup corner inf. Mid Inf hitting bench players don’t exist so the acquisition upgrade has to come from Turner’s spot on the roster. Let’s hope Bay and a RH hitting catcher is enough to beat lefties.

    • 7train
      July 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      I believe the Mets biggest offensive weakness is against LHP all the way around, not just catcher. Ike (career .226/.286/.374, 33% K) and Duda (career .231/.281/.333, 12 xbase hits) Add in Kirk (.167/.275/.217) Baxter (.000/.168/.000) and it’s not just Nickeas’ (.208/.291/.250) in a handful of AB’s that’s the problem, it’s almost everyone. Murph this year is .252/.276/.333 and Thole is .250/.280/.333. That’s a lineup that would be lucky to score more than 1 run over the first 6 innings.

      Without adding a RH RF bat we have little choice but to platoon Duda with Bay in RF. Hairston’s arm won’t allow him to play there. Pair Hairston with Valdespin in LF and Kirk with Torres in CF. Insane but it’s the only way it’ll work. A trade of Turner and Quintanilla would allow Satin to come up to platoon with Davis giving us a lineup vs. LHP of Tejada, Cedeno Wright, Hairston, Bay, Satin, Torres, Nickeas, pitcher.

      Not ideal but they can grind out AB’s and it does leave pinch hitters on the bench in Murphy, Valdespin, Davis, Baxter, Thole and Duda which gives you a chance to win it in the end.

      If Kirk’s not hitting when Baxter gets back he gets optioned and Valdespin plays CF against righty’s. If Bays not hitting or handling RF then he must be cut loose. to add a reliever. God help us if any of the cards tumbles onto the DL down the stretch. Then we’re completely hosed which illustrates what a folly a trade of a good prospect for a one dimensional rental would be.

      That might leave the pen short a man for a week at a time but they’ll just have to suck it up. Something has to be done to get some offensive production out of 1B and RF against leftys. Satin and Bay can be DFA’d and Kirk optioned if we’re still in it for a reliever down the stretch.

    • AJ
      July 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Metsense – Agreed that a decent hitting righty catcher would be a good acquisition. I think Thole is a respectable catcher and not a bad hitter when facing right handed pitching, so he should be part of the mix. When you think about it, catcher is actually an advantageous position to run as a platoon, given the wear and tear on the guy squatting behind the plate.

      • 7train
        July 9, 2012 at 11:33 pm

        The catcher wouldn’t make that much difference though. You can’t pinch hit one for the other because you’ll have no catcher if the 2nd one gets hurt so your still not getting the platoon advantage after the starting pitcher is out. Add in that Thole will be catching Dickey regardless of whose pitching against us and it’s a neglidgeable difference.

        The reality is that Nickeas is hitting LHP about as well as Ike, Duda and Murphy are and better than Kirk. Think about it. Our entire ineptitude against LHP is being blamed on eight Nickeas AB’s every week. That’s BS. Meanwhile Duda has four extra base hits against LHP all year, is killing the pitching staff with his atrocious defense and can’t even run the bases. Ike is hitting LHP like he’s a backup middle infielder which is actually better than he handled them last year believe it or not. Kirk has to be platooned or optioned down. Baxter has never even had a hit in the majors against a lefty ever and Bay? Who the hell knows what your going to get from him. Right now we have Tejada, Torres, Cedeno, Wright and Hairston who can hit LHP well. Murphy, Thole, Turner and Nickeas are OK and Valdespin has hit them in the minors. Every single other player is a black hole against them.

        Hurts us defensively to have Turner at 1B no question but Cedeno and Torres are fine at 2B and CF but if someone gets hurt we’ll be adding black hole after black hole to the lineup when we see LHP and changing the backup catcher isn’t going to do a damn thing about that. If anything it might hurt the pitching staff preperation.

        • Metsense
          July 10, 2012 at 7:25 am

          7train:Both posts are in depth and very much the logical thinking on the matter.Alderson is finally getting a body of statistical work in order to evaluate each player at the MLB level and it appears that the Mets are a team of platoon players. The Mets are still a team of many parts that are “almost but just not” fitting together properly. More tinkering needs to be done.

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