When was the last time a home grown Mets talent started at first base on Opening Day in back to back years? The answer is Ed Kranepool, who started on Opening Day in 1976 and 1977. Since then, the Mets have had a plethora of Opening Day first baseman, some good (such as Keith Hernandez, John Olerud and Carlos Delgado) and some not so good (such as Mo Vaughn). But one thing the Amazins have never really had is a home grown, offensive player at first (no, I don’t count Jason Phillips). Ike Davis is now that guy.
I previously discussed Ike’s defense, but make no mistake, he can swing the bat as well. After hitting zero home runs at Brooklyn, Davis exploded in 2009, batting .298/.381/.524 with 20 long balls between Double and Triple A. He was red hot at Buffalo (12 hits in 42 plate appearances with two long balls) before being called up. Despite not putting up Buster Posey or Jason Heyward-like numbers, Davis still had a very successful rookie year at the plate, hitting .264/.351/.440 with 19 homers and 71 RBI at the age of 23. His strikeout total of 138 was a little high, but that should decrease as he becomes more used to major league pitching, and he still managed a wRC+ of 115 He also fared well against lefties, batting .295/.362/.443 against them. With Bill James projecting Ike to hit .283/.374/.488 with 23 big flies this season, there is no reason for Met fans to think that Ike won’t have a great sophomore year.
It’s only been three games, but Davis has produced so far (and he’s helped my fantasy team). In the series against Florida, Ike went four for eleven with two doubles, a homer and two walks. Obviously it’s ridiculous to think he will slug at an .818 clip for the entire season, but extra base hits should be the name of Davis’ game. Last season, he smacked 33 doubles (and one triple) to go along with his 19 dingers, amounting to an extra base hit rate of 38%. That is, 38% of his hits went for extra bases, as opposed to 8.8% of his plate appearances ending in extra base hits. Either way, both of those percentage were above the league averages and if he can improve upon those numbers, Ike will have a recipe for success.
At least from the look of things, Davis is not going to be a guy who hits 30-40 home runs on a regular basis, especially playing half of his games in CitiField. When thinking of some of the best sluggers in the game today, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera all come to mind, and those guys all play first base. However, Ike doesn’t need to hit that many home runs in order to be successful-why not just drive the ball to the gap? If Ike can hit between 20-25 home runs and around 40 doubles, that is just as good.
Granted, a home run is always great, but with runners on, a double should almost always clear the bases, especially given that the guys most likely hitting in front of Ike in the batting order (Reyes, Pagan, Wright, Beltran and maybe Bay) all possess decent to excellent speed, making them more likely to score on an extra base hit. Long fly balls to the gaps at Citi will probably produce outs, but balls with a flatter trajectory to those areas will most likely produce doubles. Granted, this advice works for any hitter, but it is particularly relevant to Ike since he plays a position that is historically laden with home run crushing power.
Combined with his slick fielding, Ike possesses the necessary offensive talent to be in the Mets Opening Day lineup for years to come. I know that I, along with other Met fans, are looking forward to see how he grows this season, how many bombs he hits, and of course, how many more times he will make a catch while falling over the railing.
Tags: Albert Pujols Angel Pagan Binghamton Mets Buffalo Bisons Carlos Beltran CitiField David Wright Defense Double A First Baseman Gold Glove Ike Davis Jason Bay John Olerud Jose Reyes Keith Hernandez Matt Kaufman Mo Vaugh New York Mets Opening Day Power Prince Fielder Rising Apple Slick Fielding Slugging Percentage Triple A