Ike Davis Continues to Struggle

By Matt Musico

There have been more than a number of pleasant surprises from the New York Mets this early in the season; one of the early season disappointments has been the lack of production from first baseman Ike Davis.  When Davis broke into the league as a rookie in 2010 at the age of 23, he showed Mets fans that the future was bright with him in the fold. His 19 home runs and 71 RBI, to go along with a .264 batting average was a solid showing in his first full season in the Major Leagues. Before his season ended last year in May with an ankle injury, he was performing at a high level (.302/.383/.543) and his power presence in the Mets lineup was missed badly for the rest of 2011.

Davis singled yesterday against the Nationals, finally registering his first hit after six games. What’s been concerning to me is the rate at which he’s been striking out. Slumps are usually accompanied with an increase in strikeouts and Davis is known to rack up his fair share of punch outs, but how he is striking out is what’s the most alarming. Throughout this early part of the season, he has received a steady diet of off-speed pitches low and away. Even though this has been a recurring theme with every pitcher he’s faced so far, he hasn’t been able to adjust to how he’s getting thrown to.

Why is he not adjusting like he has in the previous two years? The lack of protection behind him in the lineup is proving to be costly. If Jason Bay was the player that he was in Boston, then we wouldn’t be talking about the protection behind Davis. However, Bay has somehow turned into a singles hitter that also looks overmatched at the plate on a consistent basis. So far this year, Bay’s stats look like this:

.158 average, 0 home runs, 1 RBI, .261 on-base%, 8 strikeouts

With a solid hitter in front of Davis, such as David Wright, Daniel Murphy, or even Lucas Duda, it’s imperative for him to have another one behind him to force pitchers throw him more than just soft stuff, especially when he’s going through this slump. Wright has started out so hot this season that he’s already received some intentional passes in order to get to the struggling first baseman. If Bay was producing behind him in the five-hole and actually instilling some fear into opposing pitchers, Davis would be able to see a fastball or two during his at-bat. Since Bay hasn’t done much of anything, it allows pitchers to nibble on the corners with off speed stuff. Since that’s all Ike is getting in his at-bats, he’s getting over-anxious and chasing pitches that he rarely considered swinging at over the past couple of years.

Reports say that Terry Collins will consider moving Duda up to the five-spot in the lineup and/or go with a platoon in left field if Bay continues to struggle into May. At this point, there has been no sign of life in Bay’s bat, whether it was in Port St. Lucie or New York, and it seems to be only a matter of time before this platoon takes form. I can see Collins waiting to make that decision, especially to see if Kirk Nieuwenhuis can be the left-handed part of the platoon; he needs to make a move with Duda to give Davis more protection before he falls deeper into this slump. Duda hasn’t hit much since his two-homer game against Atlanta, but he puts much more fear into opposing pitchers than Jason Bay. Please make the move, Terry. We’re all waiting for it.

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