Jim Thome has 612 career home runs, and ranks 7th on the All-Time home run list. He has a career average of .276, OBP of .402, and OPS of .956. He also struck out 2,548 times. For better and for worse, this is the kind of hitter Ike Davis needs to be. The suggestion is not that Davis will overnight become a Hall of Fame hitter, but that the Mets should bring Thome in to teach him how to hit again.
With all due respect to Ike Davis, watching him hit last year was painful. There is a nice evaluation of his hitch problem online. You don’t need Keith Hernandez in the booth to tell you Davis sits down too far in his stance, draws his hands back too far, swings down and away far too much, and is late on almost everything, except breaking balls, which he swings at before it leaves the pitcher’s hand.
To counter that, Thome should come in and completely change Davis’ approach. Thome had a beautiful swing in that he stood much more upright, he leaned in to take away the inner-third of the plate, and only had a slight hitch in his draw. What Thome was able to do effectively was bring his hands more down instead of straight back, and drive the ball by staying centered and not lifting his front leg too high. Watch a slow-motion video of his last home run ever. Pitchers feared his power, and pitched around him when they had to, hence the .402 OBP.
Now some of you might be saying “But Thome struck out a lot.” Fair point, but who cares. Davis already strikes out a lot and so does the rest of the league. That is a completely separate subject, but here is a link that helps explain that problem. The Mets don’t need Davis to hit .280. They need him to hit 30 homers, and draw walks. If he can break .250, great. If his defense comes back with his hitting confidence, great! If not, he’s still probably better at first than Lucas Duda.
Davis has had a rough couple of years. Injuries, shattered confidence, a huge media market, and terrible batting habits have all betrayed Davis. I’m sure everyone and their mother on the bench, in the clubhouse, in the halls, and on the street have tried to offer advice. Davis needs one voice to drown out that cacophony of noise. To quote new Detroit closer Joe Nathan, Davis needs “the world’s nicest man” to guide him through this process, and it should begin immediately.
Thome retired from baseball at the end of the 2012 season. On July 2, 2013 he was hired as a special assistant to the general manager with the Chicago White Sox. The Mets need to pry him away for the winter and Spring Training and pay him well to be Davis’ shadow. When Sandy Koufax visits the Mets in March, he shakes a bunch of hands and passes along a tidbit or two from the vault of baseball knowledge he retains. He’s here and gone again. Thome needs to be a presence in Davis’ life starting now. Not only will it benefit Davis to have one person focusing on his needs and approach, but Thome is just such a positive role model and genuinely caring person, that his attitude alone will be welcome sight for our beleaguered first baseman.
Let’s say for instance you hate the idea of bringing inThome, or that the Mets can’t get him for one reason or another. Fine, pick another left-handed power guy from the last 20 years who still knows the game, and get him. The caveat is that he must have a more orthodox swing for Davis to learn. Somebody, anybody has to come in and rework Davis’ approach one-on-one, because hitting coach Dave Hudgens just isn’t getting the job done with this guy. That’s not to disparage Hudgens, but one man can’t fix everyone’s problems.
In June, Bleacher Report ranked Davis as having the worst swing in the game. He’s embarrassed, and we’re embarrassed for him. There are no more excuses for him. His swing doesn’t work, and it should be thrown out completely. As it looks more and more like Davis might be with the team come spring, he should be given one very last opportunity to be the player we all thing he can be. If he needs the guidance of a future Hall of Famer, so be it. Just do something, because my eyes are starting to bleed.