Ike Davis, the OBP machine

Ike DavisAt the age of 26 (27 on March 22), Ike Davis is a bust.

Once a fixture at first base and a rising star for the New York Mets, Davis’ star crashed back to Earth. Rumors of trades and cuts have lingered all winter, so much so that even the player is surprised to be back at Port. St. Lucie for Spring Training.

Recent reports of continued interest from the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates prove the market hasn’t dissolved quite yet, but many Mets fans are anxious to run him out of town one way or another.

And for good reason. Major League-caliber first basemen don’t have .161 averages, hit five home runs in 55 games and ruin their elite defense by taking their offensive struggles into the field. They certainly don’t chew out umpires for their woes.

But there was a reason the Mets were intrigued by Davis in the first place and there’s a reason he’ll get another shot, whether it be in New York, Maryland or Pennsylvania.

Davis tallied 861 plate appearances during four years in the minor leagues, including 92 plate appearances in Triple-A Las Vegas last season. His numbers throughout that campaign were promising, bolstered by a strong 2009. Split between High-A and Double-A, the first baseman smacked 20 home runs, slashed .298/.381/.524 and walked 57 times compared to 112 strikeouts. Only once did his batting average dip below .260, his rookie year in Low-A Brooklyn in 2008 when he hit .256 with no home runs. And for someone who struck out so much – 290 strikeouts, he also collected 163 walks to build a .375 career OBP in the minors.

Davis was hitting .364/.500/.636 with 2 home runs in 42 plate appearances with Triple-A Buffalo when the Mets called him up in 2010. His patience at the plate continued in Queens, finishing the season with 72 walks, 138 strikeouts and a .351 OBP to go along with 19 home runs.

An ankle injury during a collision with David Wright shortened his 2011 season, although he hit .302, slugged .543 and smacked 7 home runs in 149 plate appearances.

Davis played a full season in 2012, but was reportedly plagued by Valley Fever. He said the fungal infection sapped his strength, although he did accumulate 584 plate appearances that year. His overall offensive numbers were dreadful through June 8 – 5 home runs and a .158/.234/.273 slash. But like black and white, as bad as the first half of 2012 was, the second half was tremendous. The first baseman finished the season with a .227/.308/.462 to go along with 32 home runs. Considering the low batting average, Davis again had a respectable OBP.

Met fans were optimistic the real Davis had returned and would be ready to dominate in 2013. Oh how wrong we were. He couldn’t hit, couldn’t field and couldn’t stay out of the limelight. After a generous 55 games, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins mercifully demoted Davis with Mike Baxter and Robert Carson in exchange for Josh Satin, Josh Edgin and Colin Cowgill on June 9. He returned to Queens a month later and a changed player. Gone were the home runs, but back with a vengeance was his ability to get on base. A .286/.449/.505 second half slash powered a 2013 campaign of .205/.326/.334. He hit 9 home runs in all of the 377 plate appearances last year, 5 in the 239 in the first half and 4 in the 138 of the second half.

Clearly consistency is not part of Davis’ vocabulary. It’s impossible to predict the young player’s from one season to the next. But, perhaps as an exercise in futility, if we expand the second half of 2013 into a full season with 600 plate appearances for 2014, Davis finishes with 17 home runs and 139 walks.

It doesn’t require dreams of a Chris Davis-esque renaissance to tell that maybe Davis isn’t a bust quite yet.

15 comments for “Ike Davis, the OBP machine

  1. Marc
    February 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I’m hoping they don’t trade him. I’m almost sure he’s going to break out.

    • February 20, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      I’m not so optimistic about a break out, but I don’t think Ike is as talent-less as everyone makes him out to be. Question is if he can physically and mentally reach that level.

  2. Name
    February 20, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    To make things fair for all parties…

    At the age of 28, Lucas Duda has never gotten a fair chance with the Mets.

    Forced into the outfield for the New York Mets, Duda has never been appreciated by most fans. Rumors of trades and cuts have lingered all winter, so much so that even the player is surprised to see Ike Davis back at Port. St. Lucie for Spring Training.

    Recent reports of continued interest from the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates prove the market hasn’t dissolved quite yet, but many Mets fans are anxious to run Davis out of town one way or another.

    And for good reason. Major League-caliber first basemen don’t have .161 averages, hit five home runs in 55 games and ruin their elite defense by taking their offensive struggles into the field. They certainly don’t chew out umpires for their woes.

    But there was a reason the Mets were justified in trading him away in the first place and there’s a reason Duda should get the opportunity moving forward instead of Davis.

    Duda tallied 2183 plate appearances during seven years in the minor leagues, including 78 plate appearances in Triple-A Las Vegas last season. His numbers throughout that campaign were promising, bolstered by a strong 2010. Split between Double-A and Triple-A, the first baseman/faux left fielder smacked 23 home runs, slashed .304/.398/.569 and walked 60 times compared to 84 strikeouts. Not once did his batting average dip below .260. And for someone who struck out so much – 473 strikeouts, he also collected 273 walks to build a .379 career OBP in the minors.

    Duda was hitting .314/.389/.610 with 17 home runs in 298 plate appearances with Triple-A Buffalo when the Mets called him up in 2010 after the minor league season ended. He struggled in his first taste but was exceptional in the 2011 season, finishing the season with 33 walks, 57 strikeouts and a .370 OBP to go along with 10 home runs in just 100 games and 347 PA.

    Duda played a full season in 2012, but was sent to the minors midway in the season. Forcing him to play a position he was not suited for probably affected his performance, although he did accumulate 459 plate appearances that year. His overall offensive numbers were solid through June 30 – 11 home runs and a .258/.348/.417 slash. But sort of like black and white, as solid as the first half of 2012 was, the second half was less so. The miscast outfielder finished the season with a .239/.329/.389 to go along with 15 home runs. Considering the low batting average, Duda again had a respectable OBP.

    Met fans were optimistic the 2011 Duda could return and would be ready to dominate in 2013. We weren’t wrong, but not totally right. He hit, but couldn’t field. After a stupid decision to give Valdespin a week at second and move Murphy to 1st, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins came to their senses and shifted Duda back to his best position, first. He immediately responded and hit .357/.550/.429 and .979 OPS in 5 games. However, he got hurt quickly and had to wait for another Ike Davis injury to play full time again. He probably wasn’t 100% as he hit just .200/.343/.376 in the final month for a 2013 campaign of .223/.352/.415. He hit 15 in all of 384 plate appearances last year, 11 in the 269 in the first half and 4 in the 115 of the second half.
    Clearly Duda has been better than Davis in the past few years. It’s impossible to predict whether he will finally get the opportunity he deserves. But, perhaps as an exercise in futility, if we expand Duda’s best 40 game stretch in 2013 into a full season with 620 plate appearances for 2014, Davis finishes with 33 home runs and 90 walks.

    It shouldn’t require dreams of a Sandy trading Ike Davis for Matt Joyce to maybe give Duda the chance to do his thing at his most comfortable position.

    • February 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      That’s fine if you want to argue potential. Duda hasn’t really got a fair shake, although he did get an opportunity to play major league ball which is something most of us will never get.

      My opinion is that Duda doesn’t have the same potential as Davis at the plate and certainly not in the field. If you’re going to trade someone to the AL and you expect to see some improvement over 2013, it makes sense for a team focused on pitching with a large field to keep the better glove.

      • Name
        February 20, 2014 at 9:48 pm

        Actually, the injustice is actually two-fold. The one i was actually referring to is the fact that 99% of the articles about first base are written in the POV of Ike. Rarely anyone writes off the view of Duda and so I was just trying to spin your article to fit Duda’s perspective.

        Based on both major and minor league stats, I don’t agree with your opinion that Duda not having the same potential as Davis. Offensively, they have nearly the same numbers for both the majors and minors. Davis’s best extended stretch (the 2nd half of 2012) is also nearly on par with Duda’s best extended stretch. Duda though, has not had the valleys that Davis had. Davis has been a little better with the HR ball and so his slugging has been a bit higher, while Duda does better with the average and is more patient and makes more contact. Offensively, it’s hard to convince me Davis has more potential.
        Defensively, we don’t have a good grasp on either of them. Davis looked good in his rookie season, but has since fallen off. Is that due to injury, a mental thing, or just because defensive stats are erratic and he happened to get lucky in his first season? Duda has yet to have an extended time at first base, with his longest stretch being about 60 games in 2011. But even that was sprinkled in with appearances in the outfield.

        One can argue for both sides on which has had the tougher obstacle to overcome though. Duda, playing out of position along with confidence issues and constantly dealing with the threat of demotion by the FO, or Davis with his Valley Fever and unwavering support by the FO to continue playing him at all costs.
        I sympathized with Davis in 2012 when he had Valley fever, but he lost my support in 2013. Now I sympathize with Duda and his inability to get playing time at the position he is best in.

        Duda is controllable for 4 more years and making half Davis’s salary. Davis is only controllable for 3 more years at a much higher salary. Seeing how everything else is equal, the salary/years of control plus the emotional aspect was the deal-breaker to support Duda over Davis.

        • Jerry Grote
          February 21, 2014 at 10:56 am

          last paragraph is telling “Duda is controllable for 4 more years and making half Davis’s salary. Davis is only controllable for 3 more years at a much higher salary. Seeing how everything else is equal, the salary/years of control plus the emotional aspect was the deal-breaker to support Duda over Davis.”

          … well written, pointed response. I concur 100%; these two players are incredibly close and I have a hard time (given the economics) why anyone would prefer Davis over Duda.

          Thanks Name.

    • Metsense
      February 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Excellent Name. Duda deserves the chance and should get to play.
      Last winter, Duda couldn’t get in trade what Davis could. The NL rules only allow you to play one first base at a time. A trade needed to be done.Why Sandy passed up a serviceable outfielder in Matt Joyce baffles me.

      • February 20, 2014 at 7:12 pm

        Serviceable is a gentle word to describe Matt Joyce’s career. He’s a career .249 hitter with mediocre pop, little speed and questionable defense. His on base percentage is the only positive mark on his career outside of an All-Star worthy 2011. He’s also 29 (30 in August) and primarily plays right field, although all three of our outfield spots have plus defenders and questionable hitters with good speed.

        Joyce is someone who really should be a fourth outfielder. I’m still not sold that Ike Davis can’t be a starting first baseman, no matter how awful he was in the first half of 2013.

        • Metsense
          February 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm

          If Duda could have gotten Joyce, I would have traded Duda. Duda/Davis/Joyce are three flawed players. At least with Joyce they could play him with the remaining first baseman.
          What value is the loser of the Davis/Duda competition worth now. Joyce could have been the fourth outfielder and got time spelling Chris Young and would have been a lefty bat off the bench. He might have even started in left. (Joyce, C Young, Granderson). The Mets would be a better team today if a “Joyce like” trade had been done for either Duda or Davis sometime this past winter.

        • Chris F
          February 20, 2014 at 8:07 pm

          If only it were “the first half of 2013″. In reality, outside his rookie year, Ike has been characterized by inconsistency, total frustration, and a complete lack of capacity to hit the hook. He is the poster child for “trouble with the curve”. I would have released him this year.

  3. Bob Zoll
    February 21, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I think that if the in fielders were polled they would rather have Ike Davis at first base than anybody else. You can not look at first base just from the offense view point. Let’s give Ike a chance. He just might surprise us. When you analysis the situation, our best bet is Ike.,

    • Joey Vito
      February 21, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      “You can not look at first base just from the offense view point”
      But its an offensive position.

      “Let’s give Ike a chance”
      You do realize hes had more than enough chances right?

      “When you analysis the situation, our best bet is Ike”
      I think its Duda, you know that guy that’s been shafted for years.

      • emi
        February 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm

        duda has lack of confidence. when Beltran was here he supported duda to help him be more confident. this is something he well have to work on.

  4. February 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Seems like there’s a lot of sympathy for Duda. But IMHO, it comes down to production. Duda came up as a big guy with a solid batting average, decent corner IF/OF power, good walks, low strikeouts and shaky defense. His strikeouts have since gone through the roof and there’s been lingering confidence issues. Davis came up as an elite defender with a solid average, a little more pop and a few more strikeouts. Obviously he’s been inconsistent and/or awful in the majors, but he’s also hit 32 home runs in a season and made tremendous dive-into-the-stands grabs another season.

    When I look at this debate, I see two potential for two different players. One is a DH with a good OBP and some power. The other is a first baseman who will hit bombs, strike out and occasionally walk. Question is who pans out.

    • Name
      February 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      My goal isn’t to knock Davis down, but rather to elevate Duda into the same position that Davis’s level. Based on their minor and major league stats, there is no evidence to say that Davis has any more potential than Duda. Davis averages a HR every 25.5 PA, Duda every 29.1 PA. Over a full season, the equates to just 3 HR’s. Their career OBP is seperated by just .008, which equates to getting on base 5 extra times over the course of a season. Davis has struck out 24% of the time, Duda has struck out 23.4% of the time. That’s around a 3-4 difference over a full season. Their career OPS+ are seperated by just 2 points.

      The only difference between these 2 men is that Davis was chosen in the first round while Duda was chosen in the 7th. That’s why despite having put up the same production over their careers, all we hear is Davis Davis Davis. That’s why i sympathize with Duda. And to repeat my first point, I’m not trying to show that Davis sucks, but rather to show Duda has been just as good as him.

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