What to do with Ike Davis? | Mets360

What to do with Ike Davis?

September 13, 2010
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That seems to be one of the hot topics surrounding Mets nation lately. Fans are wondering if he’ll be the next Adrian Gonzalez or Chris Davis.

Should he be used as a trading chip to go after Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder, or should New York make a run at free agent behemoths like Adam Dunn, Derrek Lee, Paul Konerko or Lance Berkman? – all with better resumes than Davis.

I don’t think the brain trust should do either.

Davis was viewed as the organization’s savior when New York ripped off wins in 10-of-his-first 11 games while batting .324 with a .915 OPS.

Then the league seemed to catch up to the 2008 first-round draft pick and the holes in his swing – especially against outside pitches – were exposed, the strikeouts started piling up and the average began dropping. Then all the folks started jumping off the bandwagon and wondered if Davis was in over his head; was he called up too quickly after all; should he sit, platoon, go back to the minors or used as a trading chip

After Davis’ average bottomed out at .240 with a .730 OPS on August 19, the lefthanded hitter started to respond. Davis hit .378 ((28-for-74) with a 1.130 OPS, nine doubles, a triple, three homers and 12 RBI in his last 22 games. Furthermore, Davis started showing better command of the strike zone with 17 walks and 17 strikeouts. Prior to the stretch Davis had 44 walks and 106 whiffs.

Here are his 2010 numbers:

.263/.349/.449, 29-2B, 1-3B, 18-HR, 67-RBI, 61-BB, 123-SO, 128-G, 457-AB

.289 vs LHP; 5 HR, 24 SO, 90 AB, .874 OPS

Ranks 15th in OPS+ (115) among 27 first basemen that have 300 TPA; but he’s the youngest;

Ranks 5th in OPS+ among 25 players with 200 TPA this season that are under 24 (behind Jason Heyward, Buster Posey, Colby Rasmus, Mike Stanton)

Ranks fifth in single-season OPS+ for all 1Bmen under 24 from 1995-2010

Citi Bank has cost him home runs – 11 of 18 on the road, but his OPS is higher at home (.855 vs .750)

.271 and .843 OPS with RISP

Yes, Davis ranks in the middle of the pack in OPS+, but he’s the youngest everyday first baseman in the major leagues. He’s the first Met to play every day at his age since David Wright and Jose Reyes in 2006.

Of current first baseman, only Prince Fielder (age 22), Miguel Cabrera (age 20), Albert Pujols (21), Derrek Lee (22), Daric Barton (22), Chris Davis (22) and Adam Dunn (22) played everyday at a younger age, and all but Lee and Barton broke in at other positions.

That’s pretty good company.

LIke Davis, Billy Butler, Mark Texeira, Paul Konerko, James Loney and Justin Morneau broke in at age 23 and studs like Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto didn’t come on the scene until they were 24; Ryan Howard 25.

For most of us, Davis’ strikeout rate is most troubling. So using baseball-refrence.com, I sorted all first basemen since 1995 and perused their strikeout totals between the years up to age 27 to get a bit of a feel for other players with similar profiles. Below are a list of players in that age group with high strikeout totals with the range of the strikeouts in parenthesis.

Mark Texeira (112-128)

Derrek Lee (120-164)

Tony Clark (128-144)

Carlos Delgado (133-141)

Adam Dunn (165-195)

Ryan Howard (100-195)

Richie Sexson (136-178)

Carlos Pena (111-146)

Mike Jacobs (105-119)

Adrian Gonzalez (109-142)

Prince Fielder (121-138)

Jim Thome (113-146)

Mo Vaughn (130-150)

These are some pretty good players, although I’ll give you that Davis strikes out at a slightly higher rate right now than most. But all of these players, except Jacobs and Pena, were able to keep their production up even with many strikeouts during these years.

I’ve heard the arguments about packaging Davis and others to the Brewers for the readily-available Fielder, who would need to be signed to a $100 million extension and probably cost New York a top pitcher like Mike Pelfrey or Jonathan Niese – a tough pill to swallow especially with Johan Santana undergoing arm surgery.

What about Dunn, Konerko, Berkman or even Gonzalez? First of all, other than the Padres first baseman, I don’t think the minimal extra production you would get from these guys is worth the price, especially since Davis is considerably younger and won’t be able to cash in on big-time for several years.

And nobody can be sure if the Wilpon’s have enough money to sign him due to the Bernie Madoff scandal, especially after being obligated to pay underachievers Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez in 2011.

Since the Mets have not only struggled to score runs, but also to just get runners on base, I know the temptation is there for New Yorkers to want Fielder, but with Davis’ upside and Mets-friendly salary, the ownership would be better off spending any money it might have on a pitcher, an outfielder or second baseman and eat money for those players who have outgrown their contracts.

Like everybody, I’m worried that Ike Davis will turn out to be more like Chris Davis, who has spent parts of three big-league seasons in the majors with the Texas Rangers from age 22-24 and has struck out 270 times in 778 at-bats, is batting .249 with .759 OPS and 38 home runs. Strikeouts have prevented him from breaking through and probably make him a journeymen player.

But I’m comforted to see that many other players with high strikeout totals have been very productive for years, so I’ll take my chances that Ike Davis won’t be a complete bust but be productive for many years to come. I’ll take the chance of getting stuck with a Chris Davis because there’s a better chance I get a Mark Texeira.

I like Ike.

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5 Responses to What to do with Ike Davis?

  1. nascarjoeyb
    September 14, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Good research, Jim. I see Ike Davis equating to someone smack dab in the middle of Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Davis: Adam LaRoche.

  2. September 14, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Funny you say that. LaRoche showed up in my research but his strikeouts didn’t quite fit the profile.

    However, he could be the perfect match; average, OPS, power. Now I know why you’re the man in Luigi.

  3. September 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

    The strikeouts aren’t the problem – it’s what he does when he hits the ball.

    Howard, Fielder, Pujols, Helton, Sexson, Teixeira, Delgado, Gonzalez and Thome have all hit 40 HR. Will Davis ever hit 40?

    Helton, Pujols, Cabrera, Howard, Votto, Thome, Gonzalez, and Fielder, as well as Daric Barton and Nick Johnson all had OBPs over .400 – will Davis?

    Helton, Pujols, Howard, Cabrera, Fielder, Votto, Sexson, Delgado, Thome, Teixeira and Vaughn all had SLG of .575 – can Davis?

    You have to project a lot of growth to get Davis into any of these categories. So, while he is young, plays 1B and strikes out a lot, I really don’t think the majority of these guys are his true peers.

    I put in since 1990, 1st base, minimum of 300 PA, 1st or 2nd year in majors and sorted by OPS+ less than 130 and the players closest to Davis were Orlando Merced (119 OPS+ in 1991) and Dan Johnson (112 OPS+ in 2005) and Darin Erstad (112 OPS+ in 1997). To me, that is much closer to his peer group.

    Votto and Morneau were also on the list, but clearly better than Davis. Fielder was on the list, too, as a 22-year old. The following year he hit 50 HR and I just don’t see Davis doing that.

  4. September 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Brian:

    I don’t expect Davis to hit 50 or even 40 homers, but a lot of these guys played smack dab in the middle of the steroids era, so I don’t expect many 40-50 HR seasons for a while.

    I don’t think Davis is on par with Fielder or the others, but I wouldn’t trade Davis and a quality pitcher for Fielder, the $100 million it would take to re-sign him, and his body.

    I think there is a correlation between SO/BB rate and future success from talking with majorleague personnel, consultants and my own studies over the years. That is why I focused on Davis’ high rate.

    The minors are littered with top, raw prospects who can’t figure out how to command the strikezone and fade away. Most players who can survive high SO rates also have decent to very good BB rates. I think you’ll find that just about everybody on this list has a high BB rate, including Davis.

    Dan Johnson turned 26 in August 25, 2005 and had 4 1/2 years of pro experience. Davis had 182 games, including all of 55 games at AA and 10 at AAA, therefore he has been rushed.

    I’ll give you Merced, although Davis has already hit more homers this season than Merced did in any season, and Merced had only one other year better than 119 and he played seven years in the minors prior.

    Erstad was a pretty good all-around player until injuries dragged him down. I’d take him.

    I think it’s safe to say that Davis won’t be a bust and could be closer to a Texeira, Konerko or Gonzalez than Chris Davis, Lyle Overbay, Gaby Sanchez, Garrett Jones, James Loney and Carlos Pena.

    Right now without any improvement, as Joe points out, he is Adam LaRoche the next five years, although I hope Davis hits better in April and May than LaRoche did for the Pirates. But I think you will see Davis improve over the next few years.

    This is almost the length of another post.

    Thanks for the comments.

  5. Dan Stack
    September 14, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I’m not a sabermetrics guy, but to me Ike Davis passes the eye test for me. I think Ike Davis has a good future ahead of him. Just call it a hunch.

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