Last night against the Diamondbacks, NY first baseman Ike Davis went 2/2 with another pair of walks walk, bringing his total up to 13 through eight games in August, and 25 in 30 games since returning from the minors on July fifth. It’s been resurgent few weeks for Ike, as he’s managed a Pujolsian .446 OBP since being called up from the minors, after posting a dismal .242 line before the demotion. But as Mets media from broadcasters Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling to basically the entire blogosphere laud Davis for his improved discipline and plate presence, it may be wise to take a look at some of the darker underlying causes for his performance.
While it certainly is nice that Ike is no longer chasing pitches out of the zone and in the dirt, it raises the question: why is a hitter who can barely clear the mendoza line (.200 batting average) and has hit only six home runs all year, yielding a .308 slugging percentage that is more reminiscent of Luis Castillo than a middle of the order bat, getting so many pitches out of the zone? It’s not as if his power has been all that improved since his return, he’s let loose on only one long ball in the last month. Granted, Davis did finish sixth in the national league last year with 32 big flies, but that came with a shallow .227 batting average and in four big league seasons, he has never replicated such power.
The answer, it seems, is that Ike Davis’s improved on base ability, more than anything else, is due to the deflated nature of the Mets lineup and the ever pressing need for Alderson to finally acquire a bat. Opposing pitchers simply do not take the Mets hitters seriously, and with Ike being the only possible threat, they rightfully prefer to take their chances with any of the other slashers in the Mets lineup.
Sure LF Eric Young Jr. is exciting, but now his average since joining the Mets has sunk to .258, and hurlers have no problem challenging a player who has three career homeruns away from Coors Field. C John Buck is hitting .198 since May 5, with only four home runs to boot. SS Omar Quintanilla is, well, Omar Quintanilla, hitting a meager .230 as a journeyman backup masquerading as a starter. 2B Daniel Murphy is a solid hitter – if you’re only looking for singles, and Juan Lagares may be hitting .320 since the all star break, but thats largely because of a hyper inflated Babip rate.
Marlon Byrd has actually been incredibly productive, posting a .832 OPS in the cleanup spot for New York, but his struggles since David Wright‘s injury – a .227 average with no homeruns – only points to the Mets hitting weakness. Indeed, Ike’s on base numbers have only heightened with the loss of Wright, as pitchers, seeing no reason to throw to the only borderline power hitter in the lineup, have doled out 8 walks, two intentional, to Davis since David’s injury. Things have to change; it is physically impossible for a team to to contend while fielding a lineup that hinges so heavily on a single player.
Luckily for New York, Alderson appears to have plans to do just that, saying in multiple interviews that, “better days are ahead,” and that major veteran additions will be brought to the lineup come offseason. Rumors were even spread near the trade deadline that the Mets were unwilling to trade closer Bobby Parnell cause they hoped to include him in a package for a premium bat after the season.
While the baseball world waits for that to happen, however, the team’s struggles at the plate have clouded any potential judgement on Ike’s hitting ability. With the first baseman potentially owed up to 6 million dollars through arbitration next year, the Mets front office has to know whether to tender him a contract or let him go out on the open market. They simply cannot do that if he is not hitting because every pitcher is giving him a free pass.