Ike Davis: Mets LOOGY?

With Pedro Feliciano moving on to pitch for the Yankees, the Mets have brought in a so-so selection of lefties to audition for his LOOGY spot: Michael O’Connor, Taylor Tankersley, and Tim Byrdak. You might even throw Chris Capuano, Oliver Perez, and Pat Misch into the conversation, as well as minor leaguers Roy Merritt, Eric Nieson, Mark Cohoon, and Robert Carson.

How about Ike Davis?

Crazy, right? But in the deep dark winter, irrational, unrealistic thoughts tend to enter my mind. I’ve even thought my joke post to reverse the game could be considered seriously.

The idea is that Davis would be able to enter an inning on the mound to face one lefthanded hitter, then go to first base when a righty came up, then return later that inning or later in the game to face another lefty. Using Davis as a LOOGY would open up a roster spot, and allow the Mets to set up more lefty-lefty matchups in a game.

Think about it: bringing in a LOOGY to face Ryan Howard and Chase Utley not once a game, but twice — or three times! Or, bringing in a LOOGY, only to have the opposing manager counter with a RH pinch-hitter, and then slipping in a ROOGY to counter-counter — while still keeping your LOOGY available because he’d be moved to 1B.

Of course, there are some issues to work out, such as getting Davis enough warmup pitches prior to the inning in which he’d be used. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of whether he’d be good enough to retire MLB hitters.

But the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds, considering that Davis — son of former late-inning reliever Ron Davis — was a pretty good pitcher in college. He started 12 games in his freshman year at Arizona State, and was an effective reliever in his junior year, winning 4 games, saving 4, striking out 30 batters in 24 innings, and posting a 0.88 WHIP. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, as they were put up in the always-tough PAC-10 Conference. Davis was originally recruited as a DH / pitcher by ASU, and was used in the outfield because of his rifle arm. In fact, the reason he is a first baseman is because he was put there by ASU to keep his arm fresh for closing games. Here is a snippet from a Baseball America scouting report from 2005, written during his senior year in high school and prior to the June draft:

Davis had realistic expectations of going in the first round, both as a pitcher and hitter coming into the year, but he had a disappointing spring, in both roles, as Chaparral won a third straight state title. While he has excellent bat speed and continued to hit for average (.447), he drove balls only in spurts, which magnified his lack of speed and athletic ability. His velocity also slipped. It settled into the high 80s this spring after being 87-91 and touching 92 in the past. But he still gets exceptional movement from a three-quarters angle. Scouts are split on where to play Davis, but most see greater upside on the mound. His father, on the other hand, wants him to be an everyday player. The debate could benefit Arizona State, which recruited him to play both ways and has penciled him in as its starting first baseman for 2006.

I didn’t see him pitch at ASU, so have no idea whether he had big-league stuff. From what I’ve heard, he threw at least in the low 90s during his junior year, but don’t know what he did for secondary stuff. If he threw in the mid- to high-90s, he wouldn’t necessarily need other pitches in a LOOGY role (but then, he likely wouldn’t have been drafted as a first baseman, either).

It’s been only a little over two years since Ike Davis last pitched competitively, so he wouldn’t have too much rust to shake off. Why not put him on the mound and see what he can do? If he can find the plate with his fastball and mix in a slider, he’ll have enough to be a LOOGY. In spring training, have him spend about 15 minutes to a half-hour a day throwing off a mound under the close watch of Dan Warthen. What’s the worst that can happen?

Hat tip to Murph, who inspired this post by his comment over the weekend.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. mike January 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm
    Isn’t the worst that can happen Davis blowing out his arm and being unable to play at all? Sound pretty serious to me. I don’t hate the idea in theory, but it will never happen.
    • Joe Janish January 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm
      I suppose an arm injury is a concern, but I doubt one would seriously affect Ike’s ability to play first base. Xavier Nady has had TJ surgery twice and he can still play the OF, where throwing is much more important.

      Also, injuries *generally* occur due to a combination of poor mechanics and overuse. I haven’t seen Ike pitch so don’t know about his mechanics. Overuse might not be an issue for someone facing 1 or 2 batters a game … though, if he was good enough to appear in 50+ games a year, then it might be something to worry about.

      A good point to consider though.

  2. hernandezhofer January 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm
    I agree with Mike. The worst that can happen is Ike blows out an elbow, or the pitcher (who would have to play FIRST BASE!!!!) would injure themselves having to be an athlete.

    There is a reason that in blowout games the 25th man pitches – the chance of injury is too high to put a valuable position player on the mound.

    The last two way player was Brooks Kieschnick; and he stunk at both hitting and pitching.

  3. Bennyreyes January 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm
    maybe im missing something but when ike davis comes in to pitch your going to need a first baseman .. so your going to use that bench spot 2 times + in a game ? thats pretty dumb imo.
    • Joe Janish January 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm
      Good point in that you’d need someone to play 1B. Ideally, you have another P/1B who is a ROOGY and also a good hitter to switch off. Micah Owings? Jason Jennings? Jason Marquis?
  4. mike January 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm
    Ike Davis said in reply to a question on whether or not he would change positions to acquire Pujols, “I’d become a reliever to get Pujols!” It was a joke, not to be taken seriously.
    • Charles Mertens January 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm
      Actually, the quote was “I’d become a f****** middle infielder to get Albert.” But like you said, he was just playing around.
  5. Tony January 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm
    In the early days of the game this wasn’t uncommon, in fact Babe Ruth did it frequently even after converting to a position player.

    Most recently it was done by the Brewers just a few years ago with brooks something or another, but he has a bench guy, no where near as valuable to the brew crew as Ike may be to the Mets.

    Jose Canseco blew out his arm pitching for the Rangers against the Red Sox in a blow out of a game, teams have stayed away from doing this because of stuff like that.

    • Joe Janish January 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm
      I remember the Canseco debacle, but that was a one-time thing — Canseco was never a pitcher, competitively, in his life, not even in high school.

      As mentioned earlier in this thread, yes there is the injury concern. But again, if his mechanics are solid, and he’s on a regimented throwing program, an injury is unlikely to happen considering the anticipated workload of a LOOGY. More to the point, if Ike has an arm injury from pitching it won’t end his career as a first baseman.

  6. NateW January 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm
    The problem that arrises when using Davis is that you burn a bench player each time he takes the mound and then goes back to 1B. So the idea that it gives you an extra player to work with really doesn’t pay off. If he can get one lefty out a few times a week its a very small gain..

    Its a novel idea and I am kind of surprised that Kieschnick has been the only guy teams have tried it with so far. I thought Mark Kotsay could have been that guy, but nine years as a regular OF is certainly a good showing so stopping him from pitching cant really be questioned.

  7. argonbunnies January 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm
    Owings would be a perfect platoon partner. You could even double the matchup advantage by inserting Owings when the other team’s got a lefty scheduled to face the #9 spot (Owings mashes lefties).

    With Davis facing lefties, you could expect a decent number of balls pulled toward first, so our ROOGY would have to be a pretty solid fielder. However, if Murphy’s playing LF, you could bring Murphy to first and put the ROOGY in left. Ryan Howard’s deep drives to left usually leave the park or hang up long enough to be caught, right?

    • Joe Janish January 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm
      EXCELLENT points!

      Chances are pretty good this type of arrangement wouldn’t happen anytime soon, but it’s this kind of brainstorming that eventually leads to revolutions in the game. And it’s a fun way to pass through the winter.

      There was a time that the DH seemed like a crazy idea, but it happened. And the thought to sign Jackie Robinson was an “out of the box” concept at the time.

      • argonbunnies January 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm
        Agreed. And really, what better time to experiment than in a year where our postseason odds are tiny?

        If Ike gets a sore elbow and/or can’t retire Utley, well, at least we tried. In the meantime, maybe we got to keep Nick Evans in the organization instead of giving his roster spot to some crappy 7th reliever.

        • Joe Janish January 24, 2011 at 11:15 pm
          Funny, that was EXACTLY what I was thinking when I wrote this post: what do the Mets have to lose by trying something crazy like this? It’s not like it will make a difference in their postseason hopes (dreams). 2011 is the year to try new things … hey, you never know!
        • CatchDog January 25, 2011 at 9:35 am
          Who sez the pitcher has to play first? As mentioned, perhaps that pitcher slides to an outfield spot and the outfielder (Bay, Pagan, Duda, Evans) plays first.

          Depending on the situation, Ike could always pitch in or work the outter half of the plate, giving some protection to the pitcher/fielder. I could definitely see this being executed in the right situation if Ike is up to the task.

  8. John Lennon January 24, 2011 at 11:33 pm
    Did anyone think that if
    Davis came in to face a batter, the relieved pitcher could go to first base, and then return to the mound. The Mets have done this before, switching pitchers and placing them in RF
    • Joe Janish January 25, 2011 at 12:55 am
      I vaguely remember Jesse Orosco and/or Ron Darling doing something similar during a 15-20 inning game at some point in the 1980s … so it’s a possibility.

      The concern, I suppose, is that a pitcher playing in the field would a) not be very good out there and b) might injure himself going after a ball. My answer to that is that these are world-class athletes, and should be able to handle a position for an inning or two, if properly prepared. Pitchers have a LOT of free time on their hands, so why not have them shag some fly balls?

      • metstastic January 25, 2011 at 2:45 am
        Pitchers already shag fly balls which is why it is a better idea to have 2 relief pitchers in there.. One in LF and one on the mound and then switch off.. No need for an extra position player.. and the least risk for an injury. If you haven’t tried, try throwing a baseball at full force for a dozen times. Your arm will feel like it’s about to fall off!
  9. murph January 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm
    This was a fun post, and file it under “it’s so crazy, it just might work”.

    Realistically, if any team were to consider doing this, they should work on it either in spring training or A-ball first.

    I think we are more likely to see an ambidextrous relief pitcher before this idea hits.

    Remember Pat Venditte, that ambidextrous pitcher that was on the Staten Island Yankees a few years ago?
    Looks like he is working his way up, and may be at AA or AAA this year.

    • Joe Janish January 25, 2011 at 11:05 pm
      Verditte continues to be intriguing. That would be incredibly cool if he made MLB and actually used both hands.

      But, it wouldn’t be the first time; former Met reliever Greg Harris was ambidextrous, and wore — in games — a custom 6-fingered glove (made in Japan, I think) that could be worn on either hand. From what I remember, he only was allowed to pitch both lefty and righty in a game once, at the tail end of his career with the Expos.

      Also, when I was a college coach I scouted a high school kid who threw both lefty and righty — and was close to 90 MPH from both sides. We didn’t get him, but he did wind up a #1 pick and in MLB eventually, throwing exclusively from the left side (surprised?) — his name was Mark Lukasiewicz.