2011 Evaluation: Ike Davis

Remember Ike Davis? He was the really tall first baseman with the big-fly swing. You may remember him from the early spring, when there was still a shred of hope for Mets fans.

Ike began the season red-hot, hitting .302 with a .925 OPS and 7 HR through the first 36 games and 149 plate appearances. Then the fateful infield fly fell to the Earth, and the young strapping first baseman’s year was finished.

If only someone had taken charge that moment — say, a catcher, since that is usually part of the job description — perhaps things would have gone differently that day, and through the season, for the Mets and Ike Davis. But, we can’t dwell on what might have been, and we can’t quantify intangibles, so move on we will.

There’s no question Ike Davis was looking like a future All-Star in the weeks before he went down with that horrible ankle injury. What we can question, though, is whether that hot start was truly indicative of what he would have done through 162 games. Hard to say, because he had such a scorching April, then seemed to be falling back to normalcy in the week or so right before crashing into David Wright. After hitting .337 with a 1.014 OPS in the initial month, Ike dropped to only .206 / .672 in the nine games he played in May. Granted, a small sample size, but it wasn’t surprising considering the streakiness we’ve seen from Davis thus far in his young career. He ran hot and cold for stretches in his rookie campaign — sometimes really hot, occasionally really cold. But was that because he’s streaky or because he and the league were making adjustments to each other?

One thing that did jump out at me in Ike’s short 2011: difficulty hitting against lefthanders. As a rookie, Davis more than held his own vs. southpaws with a .295 AVG / .805 OPS in 138 plate appearances (both numbers were much higher than how he fared against righthanders). In 2011, however, those stats dropped drastically, to .163 / .493 in 50 PAs. Again, were talking small sample sizes — in both years — but it’s something to keep an eye on.

2012 Projection

I don’t know — your guess is as good as mine. Ike Davis has a long, uppercut swing that would seem to be prone to the streakiness that we’ve seen. But when he’s “on” — wow — he’s “on”. He has the propensity to hit majestic, towering homeruns. He can also take a walk. He has also shown an ability to go the other way. His fielding is stellar. On the down side, we’re not sure how much he’ll struggle against lefties, he tends to strike out quite a bit, and his already slow feet likely will be slower after the injury. Will he become an Adam Dunn type of player? Maybe. Or will be more like an Adam LaRoche? I think that’s the range for him from ceiling to floor, and if LaRoche is the floor, that’s not too bad. My guess is Ike Davis will fall somewhere in between the two Adams, and that’s fine by me. First, though, I want to see him healthy and on the field — let’s all keep our fingers crossed on that.

What do you think? What kind of year are you expecting from Ike Davis in 2012?

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. NormE December 19, 2011 at 9:30 am
    Good analysis.

    As presently constituted this Mets lineup (with Davis, Duda, Murphy, Thole, Torres) will see a lot of southpaws.
    One could look for some move to bring in a right-handed outfielder, but with the above lefties drawing small salaries I
    would be surprised if any of them would be traded.
    Turner and Nickeas will probably remain, again because of low salaries.
    That’s what the 2012 Mets are all about!

    • MikeT December 19, 2011 at 10:09 am
      Actually if you look at a team like the Phillies, who were not overly concerned about their left handed heavy lineup when they signed Raul Ibanez, making decisions on which players to keep and trade based on handedness at the plate is really not that important. Good hitters are good hitters and you should look to acquire as many of those as possible. I’d prefer the guy who has better overall numbers to the guy who hits from the opposite side of the plate. If you make an equal swap that is different. I’d say having a few guys off the bench that can really hit lefties is more important.

      As for Ike, hard to predict, but I’d like him to stay healthy and put up better numbers overall than his rookie year. That’s as far as I will go with my predictions, because his injury was so unfortunate and scary.

  2. wohjr December 19, 2011 at 4:05 pm
    I predict at least 2 bridge bombs in 2012. Gary– if you’re out there– that will be exactly 2 more than dw.
  3. argonbunnies December 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm
    There was some talk about making Ike’s swing shorter in the spring. I was skeptical, as most hitters his age don’t seem to make such fundamental changes, and fewer still do it successfully. But I have to say, his swing in 2011 DID look a little shorter to me, which I think bodes well for his development. In his prime, he may be merely a 120-K guy, not a 180-K guy.

    The big question for me is how often his home run power produces actual home runs. Some guys who can hit the ball to the moon just don’t do it very often. Ike doesn’t look like he’s up there trying to hit every ball out like Dunn. It seems like a lot of his hard hits will go for doubles.

    My main bit of pessimism regarding Davis is his defense. A combination of (a) looking good in comparison to our other 1Bs, (b) a few highlight plays, (c) a rocket arm, and (d) outstanding defensive stats in tiny sample sizes has got a lot of people thinking he’s an elite defender. My eyes say otherwise. He appears to have average-to-below quickness and reaction speed. He does other things well, but I don’t ever see him showing great range to either side.

    • Joe Janish December 20, 2011 at 12:20 am
      Whether his swing is shorter or longer, the weird thing about it is that his hands go up instead of down; very unorthodox and makes him highly vulnerable to fastballs up. In fact I’ve been continually stunned that opposing pitchers don’t pitch him up in the zone — though, maybe they just don’t know how, with the constant demand of them to throw low strikes.

      As for his defense, you bring up good, valid points. I agree — not sure what kind of range he has, and all the hoopla seems to surround his big arm and occasional flash. It will be interesting to watch how he does this year, both in the field and at the plate.