Ike Davis highlights Mets struggles against relief pitchers

It’s always tough to lose but the way the Mets have been defeated the past two nights approaches soul-crushing territory. Two nights ago it was lose the lead in the ninth, take the lead in the 15th and lose the game in the bottom of the inning. Last night it was take a shutout into the ninth and then give up two runs to lose the game. To the woeful Marlins, who were playing without their only star.

Monday night’s game especially drove home a point I had been thinking about recently. It seems to me on a gut level that the Mets have done an okay job against a team’s starting pitcher but were producing horribly once they got into the other team’s bullpen. That night the Mets scored two runs in four innings against the starter and one run in 11 innings against the relievers

This is not an easy thing to look up, as Baseball-Reference seemingly did not have this split on a team-wide level. What they do have are team-wide splits for times facing an opponent in a game. So far in 2013, the NL average the first time facing a SP is a .705 OPS. The second time is a .706 OPS and the third time is a .736 OPS. In 2012, those numbers were .694, .732 and .777, respectively.

So far in 2013, the Mets are 8th in the NL in OPS against a SP the first time they face him. The second time through they jump up to sixth and the third time, their .877 OPS against a SP is the third-best mark in the league.

However, against relief pitchers, it’s a different story. The first time batting against a reliever, the Mets’ OPS drops to .651 – 10th in the league and 28 points behind the ninth-place squad. And if a relief pitcher stays in to face the Mets a second time, the team OPS drops to .423, the 11th-worst mark in the loop.

Here are their splits in this overall category:

Versus SP – .255/.329/.406
Versus RP — .199/.279/.361

Three players for the Mets are performing well against relievers – David Wright (.829 OPS), Lucas Duda (.862 OPS) and Daniel Murphy (.920 OPS). Every other player with more than 1 AB has a .669 or lower OPS.

John Buck and Ruben Tejada have the most PA against relievers (38) and their OPS numbers are .644 and .587, respectively. Next up is Ike Davis with 37 PA and a .556 OPS. On the plus side, Davis is drawing walks and hitting for power but he has just 4 H in 32 ABs.

With two of those hits as HR, Davis has a microscopic .133 BABIP against relievers. The knee-jerk reaction is to say that there’s no way he can continue to be that unlucky and that he’s due for regression. But it’s likely that the majority of the relievers that Davis is facing are LHP with big breaking balls that Davis chases out of the zone. In limited action against southpaws this year, Davis has a .394 OPS. Until he changes his approach, it seems optimistic to expect much better results.

So, the data confirms the gut – the Mets are struggling against opponents’ bullpens. Their isolated OBP and SLG numbers are okay; it’s just that they can’t hit. Without doing more digging – specifically to find out how much of this is due to the platoon advantage – it’s hard to say how much of this is bad luck that is due for regression. In the meantime, we just have to hope that today’s the day the Mets feast on another team’s bullpen.

14 comments for “Ike Davis highlights Mets struggles against relief pitchers

  1. Hobie
    May 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Informative as usual, Brian.

    I am wondering how the “deep count” philosophy figures into this:
    (A) The concept is to drive up pitch count and get to the BP (where they flop!); and
    (B) Against RP’s, who are typically more aggressive than SP’s, they get behind in the count more often.

    WDYT?

    • May 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Hey Hobie, this is what I said about this last October:

      Dave Hudgens’ approach of working the count is a good one and should be continued with some tweaking. The idea of taking pitches is not to amass walks. The idea is to wait for a pitch you can drive and then hit the ball with authority. Walks are just a happy by-product of this approach. If the pitcher throws a “get-it-over” strike on the first pitch – hit it into the gap and start running. Too many times last year we saw Mets hitters adopt the Jose Reyes approach to 3-0 pitches – watch it go by no matter how hittable it is. By all means if the pitcher serves up a meatball (and not all 3-0 pitches are this way) feast on it!

      The flip side of this is swinging at every 0-2 pitch no matter how much out of the strike zone it is. This got so bad with Davis in particular that I advocated giving him the take sign on this count. No one’s going to feel bad if a pitcher snaps off a curve on the black and the umpire runs up the hitter. That’s baseball. But constantly swinging at pitches that start out at the knees and break a foot out of the strike zone is maddening. All players and teams do this to some extent but the degree to which Mets’ hitters did this last year was seemingly over the top.

  2. Hobie
    May 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I understand & agree with all of that. My question still is: is there any correlation between this concept and the seeming discrepancy in outcome vs. SP’s vis-a-vis relievers?

    • May 2, 2013 at 8:34 am

      The only way to know for sure would be to go back and chart the pitches. My instinct is that this is primarily the result of relievers brought in with the platoon advantage and a distant second some poor BABIP luck.

  3. Metsense
    May 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    In ’86 the Mets also took a lot of pitches early in the game with the goal to get to the underbelly of the other team’s middle relief. They also wanted to gauge what the SP could and could not throw on that day. They shared this knowledge with each other. When the sixth or seventh inning rolled around they knew what to expect from the SP or feast on the inferior middle relief. This Met team isn’t as accomplished as hitters and they allow too many hittale pitches to go by or are unable to recognize the unhittable ones. I wouldn’t get rid of the philosophy but maybe a few of the players instead. Nice research Brian.

  4. Jerry Grote
    May 1, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Thanks for doing the actual legwork on this Brian … it substantiates something I’ve been mentioning hereabouts for some time.

    It’s not a new phenomenon. Ike Davis has a horrific split against LHrP for a couple years.

  5. May 2, 2013 at 1:13 am

    The sad part is that most teams in the National League do not have great bull pens(they have dependable closers) Of all the teams one would think the Mets should be able to do some damage it would have to be the Marlins. Inept and pathetic. No excuse about the weather in Miami. If they can’t hit against this patchwork MLB team what happens when they start to face teams like the Giants and Reds?

  6. May 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Do you think if Davis continues to struggle this much against lefties they might platoon him?

    • May 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Well, Collins is looking for ways to get Justin Turner into the lineup…

      • steevy
        May 2, 2013 at 6:17 pm

        Good Lord!

  7. May 2, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Can’t do it. As much as we wouldn’t mind the idea. You diminish his trade value. Hope that as he says he’s a slow starter and can regain his swing from when he first came up.

  8. AJ
    May 3, 2013 at 12:28 am

    It is curious how Davis gets treated by the Mets like he’s proven star who just happens to be struggling. When you look at his track record it’s not very impressive, yet there seems to be this continuous sense that he’s a major talent who’s going to burst out at any moment. Maybe it’s because the Mets so badly want and need a power bat in the lineup, that Ike’s flashes of being a masher are enough to get him a pass on the great stretches of impotence that make up the bulk of his resume.

    I can’t see how platooning Ike Davis would diminish his trade value any more than his on-field performance already has.

    • Chris F
      May 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

      I totally agree. Much more hype and excuses than reality.

  9. May 3, 2013 at 12:52 am

    If the Mets were to decide to go with Duda at first base in 2014 you need Ike to start producing home runs and R.B.I.’s so his trade value will go up. If he can hit 15 home runs, drive in say 60 R.B.I.’S and hit .250 then you can increase his market value. Platooning him with Turner is not a long term solution. Either play him every day and see if he can start to produce or send him down to Binghamton to work it out. The Mets have in their midst one of the best left hand hitting first base man to play for them. I don’t understand why they don’t ask Keith Hernandez to spend some time with him and work on his approach to hitting. As a former player he can relate better than any of the hitting coaches the Mets have.

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