Archive: January 24th, 2011

22 DUPACR: Ray Knight

There are 22 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report. Thus we honor former #22 Ray Knight.

Choosing Knight was fairly easy, since he is one of my favorite all-time Mets, for his grit, hustle, fire, and hard-nosed play. He got dirty, he was a gamer, he played with fierce passion, he hated to lose, he was unselfish, a team player, and he beat the crap out of Eric Davis. Oh, and he was a pretty decent player, too, able to play multiple positions more than adequately and providing some pop at the plate. His career numbers don’t look spectacular compared to the hitters of today, and he didn’t hit for enough power to justify being a corner infielder, but he had a few strong seasons where his average was around .300 and his OPS in the .750-.800 range. In short, he was “a ballplayer”, and enjoyable to watch — especially in 1986, when he came through with clutch hits time after time.

And the clutch thing isn’t just my romantic side remembering things the way I want to remember them. Sure, I vividly remember him scoring the winning run in Game 6 while Vin Scully screamed “gets by Buckner!”, and hitting the game-winning HR in Game 7. But that’s the way it went with Ray Knight all year. If you check the stats, you’ll see Knight hit .357 with a .827 OPS with runners in scoring position. With two outs and RISP, he hit .396 with a .899 OPS. Two outs and a man on third, he hit .381 with a .519 OBP and .899 OPS. With the bases loaded, he hit .400. With a man on second, he hit .375 with a .964 OPS. In “late and close” situations, he hit .325 with a .839 OPS. In tie ballgames, he hit .342 with .872 OPS. My eyes saw a clutch player, my memories echo what I saw, and the stats bear the proof: 1986 was a magical year for Ray Knight, as it was for all Mets fans.

Other #22s who were considered include Kevin McReynolds, Donn Clendenon, Michael “Mother” Tucker, Hank Webb, Al Leiter, Mike Jorgensen, Xavier Nady, and Dale Murray.

And by the way, the boys at AmazinAvenue have anointed Al Leiter as their #22 — not a bad choice, either.

The countdown thus far:

#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd


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.