Lucas Duda, this is your last chance

DudaOne man’s pain is another man’s game.

With Ike Davis likely being shelved for the rest of the year with an oblique strain, it now opens the door for Lucas Duda to reassert himself with the Mets.

For those rallying around Duda to get his chance at first base—his “comfortable” position—you all got your wish. The opportunity Duda has in front of him couldn’t have come more fortuitously. These next 24 games will give Duda an appropriate window to collectively wow us.

It’s now or never. But are 24 games enough time to properly evaluate Duda in advance of next season?

Maybe not, but Duda is definitely doing well in his chance. On Wednesday against the Braves, Duda went 3-5 with a double and a home run. In the four games since Davis went down, Duda is 7-14 with a home run and four RBI’s. He’s clearly doing his best to make a great, and perhaps, final impression.

When the Mets’ season ends, the front office will have the unenviable task of trying to figure out who they want to roll with at first base when next season comes around. Will it be Duda? Will it be Davis? Or perhaps, will the Mets go outside the organization and find help elsewhere at first?

Many Mets’ fans want Davis out on the next flight out of JFK, as he has continued to disappoint in his first four injury-plagued seasons with the club. Can he ever capitalize on the upside he showed early in his career?

Regardless, Duda has a big opportunity in front of him and now that he has a clear shot at playing time (and at a position he likes playing at), here’s wishing he can grab a hold of it.

Whatever the end result will be, Sandy Alderson has to trade at least one of Duda and Davis this offseason. There is no way, no how, that both Duda and Davis can be on the same team next year. Both are very similar in the way they play the game. They are both hulking, slugging-types, and for the most part hit or miss.

So, outside of Josh Satin getting some at-bats against some lefties, Duda will get the lion’s share of at-bats at first for the last month.

Will he impress enough in this audition or will the Mets go back to Davis. It’s a dilemma that will ultimately have to be solved soon. Whoever is patrolling first base in 2014, will be a major storyline as we get set to end the 2013 season.

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Ike Davis slowly, but surely, awakening from his slumber

Ike Davis 5While the New York Mets’ 5-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night was all about the glorious performance of Matt Harvey and the contributions from Wilmer Flores (in his second game of action); underneath it all was another solid outing from the very embattled Ike Davis.

Say what you will about Davis’ colossal slump to open the season—which stretched more than three months and ended up with a demotion to Las Vegas—Davis has looked a lot better at the plate in the last few weeks, with “better” being the operative word.

Ever since he has come back, Davis is seeing the ball really well and is not looking like a lost cause at the plate like he previously was.  He is recognizing pitches really well and is not swinging much out if his comfort zone. Prior to Wednesday night’s game, Davis  was sporting  a .282/.446/.422 slash line in his 26 games back from the minors. Davis once again had a solid outing on Wednesday night in in which he went 1-3 with another double (he has six in his last nine games), two runs scored and a walk. Not to mention he made a nice leaning catch to end the game.

Not bad for a guy who, according to most of the fanbase wants out of town on the next flight out of Flushing, eh?

Certainly, no will argue with you that Davis was abysmal for the first three months of the season and  absolutely deserved to be demoted. Heck, even with this latest surge, Davis’ overall numbers still look awful (.196/.307/.308 slash line).

However, sometimes when you get knocked down, it’s not about getting knocked down, but how you get back up. And ever since his demotion, Davis has been a new man.

Sure, the measly one home run he has hit in his comeback will not cut it in the middle of the order—especially for someone who the franchise fancies a power hitter (hey, he did hit 32 home runs in 2012). But, this is all about baby steps right now. Let’s crawl before we can walk. The home runs will eventually come. How Davis finishes the 2013 season will tell us a lot about the mental makeup of Davis.

You could argue that we have been down this road before (see his splits from the 2012 season). Is banking on Davis and having faith in him foolish? If Davis is to stick around and be a part of the 2014 squad and if he goes ice cold once again, many fans will understandably be upset. Why commit to a player who seemingly is only useful for one half of the season?

Then again, we can’t dismiss what his bout with valley fever did or does to his body. Maybe it will go away for good, or maybe it won’t.

However, giving up on a guy who has showed so much promise and has only played in just 421 games with the Mets, seems way too early.

Want a case study?

Name that player:

In 266 games with his first franchise, this player showed some major power (hitting 42 home runs in 882 at bats) but was awful at getting on base and piled up the strikeouts by the truckloads (302) while posting a meager .755 OPS with said franchise.

Yes, that player happens to be Chris Davis, one of the biggest and best sluggers currently in the league and worthy AL-MVP candidate. Yeah, the same Chris Davis that sports a whopping 1.052 OPS with the Baltimore Orioles and who the Texas Rangers deemed was a lost cause.

Ok, so obviously thinking that Ike Davis will be the second coming of Chris Davis is a little bit of wishful thinking. But, hey, for one of the game’s preeminent sluggers to struggle early much the same way Ike Davis has is a bit comforting.

So, while it may take a little while longer for Davis to become what we all want him to become, when we bear the fruits of that labor, it could be all too sweet.

What does Ike Davis have to do to get his job back?

Sure, why not write another Ike Davis column!

You see, a lot has changed in the last week, as Josh Satin (Davis’ direct replacement) has gone on a tear and appears steadfast in wanting to keep the job at first base. Also, Davis is doing his best to reclaim the job, as he has now gone back-to-back games with hitting a home run in Las Vegas.

Satin, who hit his first career home run on Wednesday night, is blistering hot and now sports a mind-boggling .390/.510/.561 slash line (prior to Friday night’s game) to go with a sterling 1.071 OPS. Obviously you can’t sit Satin in favor of Davis while he is this hot, as that would set a terrible example.

On the flipside, though, when do you give Davis a fair chance to recapture his old job? In other words, what more does Davis have to do in Vegas to get the call back up to Queens? Or is his promotion directly tied exclusively to how Satin is doing?

Sure, Davis could use a little more instruction while working to stay consistent. However, through 21 games and 75 ABs, Davis is sporting a healthy 1.091 OPS to go along with seven home runs.

It’s safe to say that Davis got the message loud and clear that he was underperforming. He’s been in Vegas for nearly three weeks and has done what was asked of him. He took instructions, made some necessary adjustments and the results are starting to pay off.

When the Mets sent down Davis, it wasn’t to punish him, but rather it was a move to get him well and confident. By the looks of it, Davis has regained some of that lost confidence.

So, given what Satin has been doing (while having the luxury of facing a ton of lefties) lately and what Davis is capable of, it may be in the Mets’ best interest to at least platoon Satin with Davis. That may be the fairest solution.

Davis, for sure, has had his share of patented long, cold dry spells, but he has proven he can play in the major leagues. Just remember, all the major league data we have on Satin is what’s he’s done in 71 at-bats.

For those who are high on Satin, is 71 at-bats enough evidence?

Again, Satin should be applauded for the effort and production he has given the Mets-it’s been well received. Satin’s production has come at a time when the Mets have actually played some solid baseball. However, it’s still a bit shortsighted to suggest Satin can be a more productive first baseman than Davis based solely on this current hot streak.

Give Davis another chance and see if he can keep pace with Satin. If he can’t then maybe that’s the time you reassess Davis’ role with this club. But until then, Davis should be given a fair chance to reclaim his job while at least getting the majority of at-bats against righties.

What’s the next chapter in Ike Davis’ future?

With Ike Davis tearing it up in Las Vegas, his return to the majors will happen at any moment now. As it is, the Mets will be facing a slew of lefties in the next 6-8 games and the Mets seem hellbent on recalling Davis when the time is right—i.e. when they are set to face a stream of righties.

Obviously, Davis needed to be sent down in order to restore some lost confidence, as his production with the big club was inarguably pathetic. I don’t think I need to lay out the numbers for you, but, suffice to say, a .500 OPS will not cut in the major leagues.

Whether it’s the tutelage of Wally Backman or what not, Davis has taken to Vegas like a pair of dice. Davis has rediscovered his stroke and as of Tuesday, Davis was sporting a healthy .306/.460/.714 slash line. In 49 at-bats with the 51s (granted, the stadium and level of competition play a huge factor), Davis has more than doubled the OPS he had with the Mets, as he is carrying a hearty 1.175 OPS in Vegas.

Good for Davis.

Davis bid his time in Vegas, restored his lost confidence and took all instructions in stride. All that’s left now is when he gets the call back up.

So, when Davis comes back in the next week or so, what is next for a player with so many questions surrounding his future?

Does Terry Collins  pencil him in as the everyday first baseman, or does he platoon him with (perhaps) Josh Satin as part of a lefty/righty split?

I’m of the opinion that if you bring up Davis, you got to take off the kid gloves and get him in there every day. After all, it seems readily apparent that the front office thinks (barring a trade) Davis is still their first baseman of the future. Then again, I do see the benefits of sitting Davis against lefties in order to slowly build his confidence back up.

For the better part of three months, Davis was a lost soul at the plate and one in search of answers. It could prove to be counterproductive for him to come back and then struggle against lefties and undo some of the good things he learned in Vegas.

Also throwing a wrench into the plans is the latest injury to Lucas Duda.

In a roundabout way, I asked a couple of weeks ago, who should the Mets commit to long term: Davis or Duda? With the two players almost identical in build, game and approach, the Mets can’t go into the 2014 season with both of these players on the squad. They have to commit to one and trade the other.

Well, with Duda now on the shelf, Davis will have a good chance to reclaim his job for good. When Davis comes back and if he does well, it could spell the end for Duda in a Mets’ uniform.

These next couple of weeks leading up to the trade deadline could get real interesting. If Davis is flourishing and is part of the team past the trade deadline, then there is a strong chance the Mets will commit to Davis for the future.

In any event, when Davis returns to the Mets, he has to capitalize on this new-found opportunity. He can’t afford to go into another extended slump-although we should all preach patience. Davis has to treat his recall as a fresh new start and build on the momentum he gained in Vegas.

Safe to say, the next chapter in Davis’ Mets’ career is about to be written in the coming weeks.

Lucas Duda or Ike Davis: Pick one

The title says it all.

Pick one (considering their only justifiable position being first base) who you could plug in as your everyday first baseman and stick with it for the foreseeable future. It’s becoming readily apparent that both of these players can’t exist on the same team.

Sooner or later the  Mets are going to have to make a solid, concrete decision on who their first baseman of the future shall be, and it all comes down to Lucas Duda and Ike Davis.

While Daniel Murphy is filling in at first for the time being—where he shouldn’tt be in the first place—he is nothing but a stop gap option until Davis can fix what ails him.

So, what should the Mets do here?

Should they commit to the player who is performing at the moment in Duda. This way, they can fix two problems at one time. First, they could field a player with an OPS more in line with that of a first baseman. And secondly, they can take Duda out of the outfield, a position he was never—and never will be—equipped to play and plug him at a position he was built to play.

Or are some of you in the camp that we should be a little more patient with Davis? After all, this is the same guy who has hit 63 home runs in 1,357 career at bats. While his OPS this year is an dreadful .500, Davis has a career .756 OPS and that is a number  more indicative of what kind a hitter Davis really is. Plus, Davis has shown, although not this year, that is more than a capable defender and is good with the glove. More so than Duda.

Regardless, the Mets can’t go into ext season with both of these players on the roster.

Clearly Davis needed to be demoted. He needed a mental break from the spotlight and get away from New York. He needed to rediscover his stroke, as that was not going to happen in Queens. No one will argue this.

However in due time, Davis shall get better and then the Mets will recall him in a few weeks.

While Duda does profile best as a first baseman, he would have been playing first base on a temporary basis while Davis is in Las Vegas. (Then again it makes no sense that Murphy is there now, as Josh Stain should be getting his chance there. Why bring him up in the first place?). So I guess I see the Mets stance there. I think the Mets know that Duda’s best position in first base. Perhaps they wanted to showcase Murphy’s versatility to enhance his trade value.

Regardless, in the next few weeks as trade deadline speculation heats up, it would behoove the Mets to figure who they want as their first baseman going forward—and decide fast.

Ok, Ike will (likely) be gone. So, what’s next?

It was a demoralizing scene if I ever saw one.

In the bottom of the 8th inning in Friday night’s game vs. the Braves, Ike Davis struck out for the fourth time in the game while looking hopeless at the plate. Once again, Davis earned the dreaded “golden sombrero.” This was the third time this year Davis has earned that distinction. Last year, Davis accomplished that feat only once.

As he was heading back to the dugout, Davis looked like a love-crossed mope in a romance drama while staggering back to the bench in the cold as the heavy rain fell on his head. It truly painted a picture of a man so down on his luck.

With Davis now one for his last 40, the Mets only recourse these days is to finally demote him to Las Vegas. Unless Davis can, say,  go 8-8 in his next two games, there is just no possible way Davis can stay up any longer and save face. The Mets, though,  will likely wait until the end of the weekend before they finally pull the plug on Davis.

Once they do, hopefully Davis can find his confidence in Las Vegas and get back to just relaxing. Davis has to just take it day by day and not worry about all the questions facing him now. He  simply is not as bad as he showing himself to be right now.

So, if Davis is demoted as as expected, where do the Mets turn to?

Well, it’s not like the Mets are going to get any great contribution from anyone else to fill in at first base. However, the Mets do have a few options though.

The Mets could slide either Daniel Murphy or Lucas Duda over to first, but with Davis expected back up eventually, there should be no reason to put either Murphy or Duda at a position on a temporary basis. Murphy and Duda need to remain comfortable (as Murphy actually already has) at where they are playing at now, as to not disrupt their rhythm.

Then there is John Buck and Justin Turner. Both of these players can play first base in a pinch, but they would show their shortcomings while trying to play there on an everyday basis. With no adequate catcher behind Buck (at least not until Travis d’Arnaud is ready) to make up for the production Buck will leave behind when he shifts to first, he doesn’t seem like a logical choice.

Turner is not a bad choice to start at first when facing lefties, but when facing righties, it would seem counterproductive to put Turner there on a regular basis.

The Mets could look to the minors, where they have two suitable replacements at their disposal in Zach Lutz and Josh Satin (both of whom are playing in Las Vegas). Satin is having the better season, posting a .298/.407/.482 slash line to go with team- leading seven home runs for the Las Vegas 51’s. Lutz, on the other hand is sporting a .278/.358/.424 slash line.

The thing is Lutz is on the 40-man roster, while Satin is not. If the Mets want to make the move with more upside then they should find a way to call up Satin and make the necessary corresponding move to do so. If not, perhaps they will go the safe route and recall Lutz. Both have had their cup of coffee with the team, so the transition should not be that daunting.

Another option the Mets could try is to move Andrew Brown to first base.

While Brown struggled in his time with the Mets earlier in the season, going 3-15, he has been too good for Las Vegas. Through 116 at-bats, Brown is batting .371 in Las Vegas while also sporting a sterling 1.097 OPS.

While the Mets have some decent options, demoting Davis will not automatically cure what ails this team. This is still a dysfunctional team from head to toe, and right now—as Ernie Palladino points out— Davis is being conveniently made the scapegoat.

Again, this should only be done to help Davis get his confidence back, as he is still viewed as one of the Mets’ centerpieces.

Hopefully, Ike gets his groove back in Las Vegas and comes back to Queens better than ever.

Ike Davis’ colossal slump masks recent ineffectiveness of Lucas Duda and John Buck

 With each mounting loss, it is becoming incredibly hard to find a silver lining to the Mets’ start to the 2013 season.

With the Mets’ 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday night, the Mets have now dropped six consecutive games. This is the second time this year that the Mets have dropped at least six games in a row. The Mets now have the third worst record (14-23) in the majors.

Ike Davis, who has become every fan’s favorite whipping boy for the Met’s pathetic offensive troubles, is not alone in this fight. Sure, once again Davis has been atrocious to start the season while sporting a pathetic .164/.254/.279 slash line to go with just four home runs and nine RBI’s.

But like I said he is not alone.

After good starts, Lucas Duda and John Buck have come crashing down. Between the two of them, they are a combined 8-66 in their last ten games. Duda, who was getting on base at a great clip early on, is now only sporting a meager .205/.350/.464 slash line. Buck has been great at knocking the ball out of the park (10 home runs-tied for second in the NL) and driving in runs in bunches (30-tied for fourth in the NL), but he now has a measly .232 batting average to go with a scant .290 on base percentage.

Simply put, outside of David Wright, the middle of the order (or for that matter any part of the order) is punchless.

You certainly can lay a lot of blame of the Mets’ failures this year on the pitching (outside of Matt Harvey‘s heroics, no will argue with you there); the offense isn’t doing their part either.

The Mets are second to last in the NL in batting average (.227), third to last in on base percentage (.301) and 12th in slugging percentage (.378). And just think how bad these stats would be if not for the hot starts by Buck and Duda.

Also not helping matters is the funk Daniel Murphy finds himself in. Murphy is also struggling and his batting average has dropped 79 points (he was batting .357 on April 23 and is currently batting .278) in the last month or so. But we have seen enough from Murphy over the years to know he’ll heat up soon enough.

So while Davis needs to shape up or be shipped off to Las Vegas, Duda and Buck should not be exempt from criticism either. For the Mets to have any notion of turning things around, they have to provide Wright with some more protection, and no, Rick Ankiel is not the answer.

It would have been nice if uber-catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud did not have to get hurt and in the process stall his eventual call-up to the big leagues. d’Arnaud will likely begin to rehab soon, but he is probably months away from getting the call. d’Arnaud could have caught while Buck got some time spelling Davis at first base. In any event, we’ll have to keep waiting for d’Arnaud to make his impact.

All these hitters need to collectively get their heads out of their, well, you know what. If not, this season could resemble the 2003 edition of the Mets when the team only finished with 66 wins.

Ike Davis’ progression critical for Mets’ 2013 success

One of the more intriguing storylines for the Mets’ last year was the up and down season Ike Davis had to endure.

It was a tale of two halves for Davis, for Davis was the Mets’ version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Davis, while overcoming an ankle injury he sustained in 2011 and then battling a bout of valley fever just prior to the start of the 2012 season, got off to a miserable start. And miserable is putting it nicely.

On June 8, Davis had an awful .158/.234/.273 slash line and an atrocious .507 OPS, which is a mark more reserved for backup middle infielders. On that date, Davis also had just five home runs and 21 RBI’s. Everyone felt Davis had lost his confidence and with his ongoing bout with valley fever, the sure answer to eventually get him going again was to demote him to Buffalo. But for whatever reason, Mets’ management took a hard stance and let Davis fix out his problems up in the big leagues.

Ultimately, Davis would snap out of his funk and end his season on a high note while collectively calming down both management and fans alike.

In his last 75 games of the year, Davis would slug 20 home runs while posting a respectable .542 slugging percentage. Davis would end up posting a .227/.308./.462 slash line at the end of the 2012 season while also bashing 32 home runs and driving in 90 runs. From where he was in mid-June, those are some pretty impressive numbers to end up with.

With all that said, the start of Davis’ 2013 season is of paramount importance to the Mets. The difference between having the “good” Ike Davis and the “bad” Ike Davis, will likely make all the difference in the world and whether or not the Mets could conceivably contend in 2013.  The Mets simply can’t sustain a stretch like that from Davis in 2013.

With the Mets trading away R.A. Dickey this winter, the Mets will have to put forth a better effort in putting more runs on the boards this year, as offense will come at more of a premium now that the Mets’ best pitcher is out of town. Davis, of course, will be one of the many players counted on to make a difference in that department. Along with David Wright, Davis has to have a consistent season for the Mets to have any shot at success in 2013.

It’s not just Davis’ bat that has to stay consistent this year; Davis also regressed defensively in 2012 and his fielding has to be top-notch once again. Davis has to take this off-season very seriously, as his production both offensively and defensively simply have to be at a higher level this year.

Considering that the Mets never really made any headway in shopping Davis this winter, he figures to be a centerpiece of the offense once again this year. Naturally, the market for guys like Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy (who both could reasonably man first base if Davis was ever to be traded) was so bearish, that trading away Davis made little sense.

Not helping matters for Davis this past season was the fact that some in the media portrayed him as some party-going playboy who stayed out all night and one who lacked good work ethic. Davis vehemently denied any such accusations and said it was complete rubbish.

Hopefully, Davis is over his bout with valley fever and has wrinkled out any other perceived problems he had with management, and he could go about  just concentrating on being a better ball player.

So, what it all boils down to is: if he is healthy, motivated and locked in, Davis could have the year we’ve all been waiting for.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Ninety-nine problems… and Ike Davis ain’t one

Ike Davis played in 156 games for the Mets in 2012. He knocked 32 balls out over the fence, he drove in 90 base runners and he did all of this in the midst of a BAD season.  It was a bad season.  Davis hit .227 and had the worst year in his career.  We’ll look at how his numbers changed over the course of the year, analyze the splits and even try to surmise what COULD have been had Davis stayed healthy through all of 2011.  First let’s look at what caused a lot of his early season troubles, Valley Fever.

The Mayo Clinic:

“Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by coccidioides (kok-sid-e-OY-deze) organisms. It can cause fever, chest pain and coughing, among other signs and symptoms.

Two species of coccidioides fungi cause valley fever. These fungi are commonly found in the soil in specific areas and can be stirred into the air by anything that disrupts the soil, such as farming, construction and wind. The fungi can then be breathed into the lungs and cause valley fever, also known as acute coccidioidomycosis (kok-sid-e-oy-doh-my-KOH-sis).

Mild cases of valley fever usually resolve on their own. In more severe cases, doctors prescribe antifungal medications that can treat the underlying infection.”

I joked with a good friend, Jerry Pockets, about valley fever through the first part of the year.  It sounded like a made up bug that someone might use to explain a string of absences from work.  In reality, it is a severe condition that should have probably shelved Ike for the first part of the year.  Looking back it might have been better that the Mets should do that.

  • In April:                .185/.241/.309/.550 (3 HRs)
  • In May:                 .154/.214/.282/.496 (2 HRs)
  • In June:                .264/.363/.563/.926 (6 HRs)
  • In July:                  .221/.257/.537/.794 (9 HRs)
  • In August:           .287/.370/.517/.887 (5 HRs)
  • In September:   .242/.373/.527/.900 (7 HRs)

If I remove the first two months of the season: .252/.389/.536/.925 (27 HRs) and we are talking about Ike Davis’ grand future with the Mets.  Speaking of grand futures… remember Ike’s great start in 2011?

  • 2011:     36 Games, 149 PAs, 20 Runs, 39 Hits, 8 2Bs, 1 3Bs, 7 HRs, 25 RBIs, 17 BBs, 31 Ks
  • 2011:     156 Games, 584 Pas, 78 Runs, 153 Hits, 31 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 27 HRs, 98 RBIs, 67 BBs, 122 Ks (If Not For Injury)

The chances of Davis maintaining a .302/.383/.543/.925 for an entire year are slim but I’d actually only adjust the hits and walks down a little and the power perhaps up a peg.  Let’s face facts… Davis still looks like a star player and perhaps one of the offensive cornerstones of the team.  At 26 he’s actually YOUNGER than Lucas Duda.  Who would you be looking to deal?

Addressing the Ike Davis trade rumors

It was obvious at the end of the 2011 season that the Mets needed to make trades because the talent on the roster did not fit. Sandy Alderson made only one notable trade last offseason, but it did not address the logjam or bring in needed C or OF help. Now Alderson finally seems ready to do what he should have done last year and the reaction from the fan base is … panic? I don’t get it.

Much has been made recently about the Mets trading Ike Davis. The team has three people on the major league roster – Davis, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy – capable of being a full-time first baseman. There’s nobody capable of being a full-time outfielder and after the year Josh Thole had, it’s an open question if there’s anyone capable of being a full-time catcher, either.

I lIke Davis – even have him on my dynasty fantasy league. But if trading Davis gets the Mets a power-hitting righty-hitting OF, I shake his hand and wish him luck as I usher him out the door. I truly believe this should be the reaction of every fan of the team. No one is suggesting trading him for a bag of broken bats and a pop-up toaster and you have to give up something to get something.

Rightly or wrongly, Davis likely has the most trade value of any of the Mets’ potential starting first basemen. And he absolutely should be dangled as part of a package to see if the Mets could get someone the equivalent of Justin Upton or Wilin Roasrio – someone to fit a position of need and to help balance the lineup by providing a power bat from the right side.

I recognize that fans worry that trading Davis now will be akin to trading Amos Otis or Ken Singleton as they were on the verge of having excellent careers. However, I have faith that the current front office will not trade for a guy like Joe Foy or overpay for a guy like Rusty Staub.

My question to you is: Do you oppose trading Davis because you have no faith in Alderson and company to make a good deal or is there another reason why you are so upset at the Davis trade rumors?

Ike Davis, Bruce Springsteen and Growin’ Up

I stood stone-like at midnight, suspended in my masquerade.

You may recognize that lyric as the opening line to “Growin’ Up,” the second track on Bruce Springsteen’s debut album. To me, this lyric and the title apply nicely to Ike Davis here in 2012.

Davis stood stone-like in the batter’s box for most of the season, as he struggled to get off the Interstate and above the Mendoza Line when it came to his average. He was as upright as he could be in the batter’s box, watching pitches down the middle of the plate before flailing helplessly at breaking balls in the dirt.

He hit rock bottom in early June, where after 53 games (one-third of the season!) he had a .501 OPS. There was talk that the Mets should send Davis down to the minors to work on his swing but the former first-round pick would have none of that, suspended in the masquerade that his presence on the team wasn’t hurting the club.

His horrific slump was a combination of poor hitting and bad luck. Both of those things turned around over the next month, as Davis batted .290 over his next 30 games. But Davis immediately followed that up with another mini slump, where he continued to be helpless against breaking balls.

Sometime in late July, Davis came to the plate with a completely revamped batting stance. No longer was he so upright in the box. Instead he had a crouch, a squat if you will. And the results were immediate. Davis seemed to have much better pitch recognition, specifically in his ability to lay off pitches in the dirt. Just as importantly, the new stance did not seem to affect his power.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez discussing Davis’ new stance recently and they reported that the player was unsure if he would keep the stance next year.

I’m not sure when Davis changed his stance. My memory tells me it was in late July but I cannot recall a date. So let’s go from August 1st. In his last 30 games, Davis has an .875 OPS and in case you think I’m cherry picking the date, that does not include his 4-for-4, 3-HR game which happened on July 28th. Also in his last 30 games, Davis has a 15.2 K% with 17 Ks in 112 PA.

Compare that to the 26.4 K% Davis had the first three months of the season and his .704 OPS over that same time span.

So why on earth would Davis want to go back to his old stance?

It seems like a continuation of a pattern with Davis. He’s the same guy who frequently argues with umpires, who throws his equipment around, who refuses to consider a demotion to the minors to work on his swing, the one who doesn’t seem to be giving the effort he used to on defense, the one who almost got picked off second base in the eighth inning Monday because he was too cool to slide.

Is his refusal to embrace his new swing due to the fact that it makes him look like he’s taking a dump in the woods? At this point, that makes as much sense as any other theory you can put out there.

Davis and Dave Hudgens deserve a lot of credit for revamping his batting stance in mid-season. Clearly, Davis put a lot of work into this radical change and he should be applauded for his effort here. But if Davis throws that away to go back to something that was a failure for most of 2012, that would appear to be a big mistake.

Speaking of mistakes, it’s time to stop referring to Davis as an elite defender at first base. The memories of his over-the-rail catches in 2010 are still fresh in our memory but he no longer makes those highlight-reel plays and the advanced metrics of DRS (-4) and UZR (-2.9) both show him as a below-average fielder at first base, which is saying something considering the sloths who play the position.

Because Davis has played such different number of games in the majors since being promoted, let’s look at his UZR/150 rates, starting when he came up in 2010: 11.9, 7.1, (-4.0). For whatever reason, Davis is not the defender he was in 2010. He doesn’t appear heavy or out of shape. Rather it appears the effort is no longer there on the defensive end.

After the 2011 season ended, I wrote that the Mets needed to trade either Davis or Lucas Duda because Duda’s defense in the outfield was so bad. The two seemed fairly close at the plate and Davis seemed like the better keeper because of his defensive play. But I find it hard to believe that 2012 Davis would be any better than Duda at first base.

In his first two years in the majors, Davis showed the ability to hit for average, hit for power and play good defense. But the game is one of constant adjustments. Pitchers adjusted and it took awhile for Davis to do the same. We have seen first hand that Davis can make adjustments. But is he too stubborn or lazy to continue to do what needs to be done to be the impact player we all hope he can be? Does Davis have what it takes to be great?

Ooh-ooh growin’ up

Mets should give Ike Davis the take sign

Since his 3-HR game, Ike Davis is 0-13 with nine strikeouts. It seems like every at-bat features a lefty pitcher with a wicked breaking ball that Davis flails at helplessly. They say that one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while anticipating different results. Davis swinging at these big breaking sliders is not getting the job done. So let’s give him the take sign.

When the at-bat ends on a pitch thrown with an 0-2 count, Davis is 1-20 with 13 strikeouts. Now, nobody looks like a superstar when batting with an 0-2 count. But what’s the worst thing that could happen if Davis just took every pitch when he found himself in this hole? He would have one fewer hit. However, it’s quite likely he would advance to a 1-2 count quite a few more times.

Davis’ numbers are still not wonderful at 1-2, but his OPS rises from .295 to .394 and if nothing else you have made the pitcher work a touch harder. The big jump comes from 1-2 to 2-2. When Davis’ PA ends after a 2-2 pitch, his OPS is .610, virtually the same as it is when he has a full count (.611).

My “Davis Rules” would be to always take on an 0-2 pitch and sit dead-red on 1-2. Any time Davis swings at an off-speed pitch in these counts he should be made to carry luggage like he’s a rookie. Even better, make him carry the rookies’ bags.

There have been 87 times this season where Davis’ PA has ended after an 0-2 or 1-2 count, or nearly one per game, as Davis has played 99 games. He is 11-86 (.128) in these situations. Without going back and reviewing the game tape of these trips to the plate, it’s impossible to know how many of these pitches were strikes. My guess is that a majority, perhaps a vast majority, were outside of the strike zone.

If the pitcher throws a breaking ball for a strike on an 0-2 count, tip your hat and walk to the bench. My sense is that most of these ABs are ending with Davis fishing on a pitch low and away. Until Davis starts taking these pitches and forces hurlers to change their pattern, nothing is going to change. He will see a never-ending supply of off-speed pitches and we will see a steady diet of Davis walking back to the dugout after a whiff. When the PA ends in these counts, Davis has a 60.5 K%.

Of course, he could hit a homer on the first pitch and make it easier on all of us…