Mets: Three current players and their most underrated qualities
J.D. Davis: His disciplined eye at the plate
During his first year in Queens, J.D. Davis often brought fans to their feet with clutch hitting and amped-up energy. Many of his biggest hits would not have been possible without his educated, patient eye at the plate.
When he was first scouted after being drafted by the Astros in 2014, Davis was noted in one article for being a “confident hitter with a great understanding of the strike zone, [and his] eye is sharp and selective when it needs to be.” He supplements his natural talent with an extremely studious attitude towards watching video of opposing pitchers, which he has maintained all the way through the minor leagues into his major league career.
In this Statcast era of baseball, we have several statistics to evaluate hitters’ plate discipline. Davis has shown continuous improvement in this area since he was drafted. From April through August of last year, Davis was only swinging at 26.1% of pitches outside of the strike zone (also known as his O-Swing %), compared to the league average of 31.4%. He did strike out 97 times in 453 plate appearances, but this 21.4% rate was much improved from his two years in Houston and was still below the MLB average strikeout rate of 23% in 2019.
Where Davis’s plate discipline shines is when it really counts. In 2019, 32.9% of his plate appearances went to 2-2 or 3-2, indicating his willingness to work the count rather than swing away too early in the at-bat. His patience almost always paid off; he hit .357 with two outs, .294 with a full count, and .358 in “late and close” situations (aka, 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck).
In other words, Davis’s disciplined eye at the plate consistently translated into clutch success last year. His walk-off hit on August 22 against the Cleveland Indians was the most prominent clutch hit of all. With the promise he showed throughout 2019, Davis will have every chance in 2020 to fully harness his plate discipline into a full season of powerful, clutch hitting.