Since the start of the 2011 season, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis have each played exactly 295 games.
Davis has been the presumed starter at first base, playing nowhere else. Duda, a natural first baseman, has been forced to try and learn right field, then left field, getting just 58 of those 295 games at his primary defensive position.
Over those three years, collectively, Davis has an OPS+ of 109. Duda has an OPS+ of 117. In 2013 alone, Davis checks in at 88. Duda’s OPS+ in 2013 is 123. Davis once held a significant edge defensively, less because Duda is a poor first baseman (he isn’t) and more because Davis was once great there. Davis no longer is, and no longer holds a meaningful defensive edge.
I think taking a step back from all the conversation, all the diagnoses, physical, psychological and the rest, and simply looking at the body of work makes the 2014 path pretty clear. Lucas Duda isn’t a great bet to be a star. But he sure looks like a good bet to provide league average production or better at the position. And the Mets appear to have a solid boost to their first base numbers against lefties, whether Davis or Duda gets the main gig, by employing Josh Satin.
Still, the decision needs to be made: Duda or Davis. I’m aware of the difficulties in cutting ties with a 26-year-old one year removed from hitting 32 home runs. I don’t know that the Mets can get anything significant for him in trade by holding onto him, rather than non-tendering him this winter, and I’d like to see what Duda can give them if he’s just planted at first base.
We’ll get that chance over the final 26 games, it appears. Davis’ case is likely complete, with that oblique injury knocking him out, probably, for the remainder of the season.
But even if Duda struggles over the final 26 games, the Mets have a much larger sample to make this call. And it isn’t especially close.