Some interesting quotes out of Sandy Alderson in Kristie Ackert’s solid piece this morning about Ike Davis.
“I don’t think he’s happy with what has happened to date. We would have hoped for a better performance to this point, but the evidence is he can do it,” Alderson said. “And he could do that again this season, we’ll see what transpires. “But Ike is a big part of the team,” the GM continued. “We expect him to come around soon.”
I guess the part I find interesting about Ike Davis and his struggles isn’t the struggles themselves, though I certainly believed he would have a better April in 2013, free of the year layoff and Valley Fever, than he did in 2012.
He hasn’t. He’s at .172/.271/.312 through 107 plate appearances, largely indistinguishable from the 2012 start that actually languished into early June. Some reasons for optimism: his line drive rate is strong and steady, and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .207, down from a career .286. If that represented a real change in ability, it would be reflected in his line drive rate. So I think he’ll turn it around.
Still, there are many people, just as there were last year, calling for a change. I would refer to a common point I seem to need to bring up in this space: Ike Davis playing is not a binary decision. If Davis doesn’t play, somebody else has to. And that person, to be an upgrade, needs to be more useful, collectively, over the short and long-term than Davis is likely to be.
That’s not an easy standard to meet, especially when you look at the internal options. I don’t think anyone is particularly close to doing so.
The Mets do have, in Lucas Duda, a hitter who can step into Davis’ spot at first base and produce. And I don’t think Duda has managed to convince anyone that he has a future in left field, any more than he did in right field.
My reservations with Duda are twofold. One is, I really have questions about how real this start is, just like I do, in the opposite direction, for Davis. Duda’s not a product of BABIP luck, with his .294 actually just under his .303 career mark. But he is also not cutting down on his strikeouts at all from last year. And he’s actually hitting far fewer line drives, with most of those former line drives now fly balls, and he has an unsustainably high home run rate on his fly balls. The walk rate is his other major jump; my questions about that I addressed here.
Another 100 plate appearances, to get a better handle on how real Duda’s improvement is, would be an awfully good idea before handing him the keys to first base long-term. It also wouldn’t help the lineup much; Duda’s in there anyway, so who is the left fielder likely to outperform Davis over the rest of the season? Because that guy should be starting already if he existed, in one of the three outfield slots.
Beyond Duda, there’s Justin Turner, and his woefully inadequate first base offense. At Triple-A, there’s Josh Satin. At Double-A, there’s Allan Dykstra and Richard Lucas. There’s a reason you haven’t heard these names much.
But here’s another reason the Mets need Ike Davis to be an answer at first base. They have a ton of holes to fill. And if Duda becomes the first baseman, he’s not your left fielder, which I don’t think he is anyway, but he’s also not traded for someone who is your left fielder, or right fielder, or center fielder, or back end starting pitcher, or one of your relievers, or your replacement for John Buck next year if Travis d’Arnaud isn’t ready, or your upgrade over Daniel Murphy at second base or Ruben Tejada at shortstop.
And that help, on the position player side, isn’t coming up anytime soon. Maybe Wilmer Flores to play a poor defensive second base opens up Murphy to be dealt for help elsewhere. But not a lot of guys to plug in, or deal for guys to plug in.
So even if we wanted to believe the Mets had money this winter (which, well, it’s awfully unlikely with the bills they have coming due), that’s a lot of holes to fill for a team without much in the upper minors and a free agent crop that won’t be great and will cost a ton (since everyone else gets to use their television money on players, rather than staying afloat financially).
It might help with this huge task if Ike Davis could be the Ike Davis of June-September 2012. And it’s not at all clear the Mets have a viable replacement that improves the lineup now, let alone an answer for tomorrow and beyond.