May 27, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

Position Battles: New York Mets 1B

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This was not supposed to be any kind of competition but Ike Davis is hitting .173/.230/.307 entering Sunday’s game.  He was out of the starting lineup each of the last four times the Mets faced a left-handed starter.  May 11 was the last time he started against a southpaw.  Against them he is .180/.196/.320 so that is not the sole source of his problems.  There were even rumblings that he faced a demotion, although they were swiftly rebutted.  Vinny Rottino was called up on May 21.  He turned 32 in April and left prospect territory long ago.  He scraped together 53 major league plate appearances with an anemic 59 wRC+.  He is not a factor in fantasy, owners should focus on what is wrong with Davis.

New York’s young first baseman did not enter 2012 with much momentum.  He injured his ankle in May of 2011 and did not get back on the field.  That is a ton of missed time for a developing player.  His bout with Valley Fever evoked shades of Casey Kotchman and Jed Lowrie missing large portions of a season with mono.  Fortunately Davis was not sidelined for long.

Davis’ statistics paint an ugly picture.  His BB/K collapsed from 0.55 to 0.25.  He had been over 0.50 every season as a professional.  His swing rate is up about 3%, but the entire increase is on pitches outside the strike zone.  His overall contact rate is down too.

When he makes contact Davis is hitting too many grounders.  His GB/FB is up from 1.02 to 1.36, sapping his power.  His popup rate is 11.1%, up from 7.3%.  His HR/FB is within a normal range showing that the power is still there but consistency is lacking.  Weak contact would partially be responsible for his .208 BABIP.  Fangraphs seems optimistic that it will be back to normal eventually.

Opposing pitchers threw Davis a curveball on 8.1% of pitches in 2011.  This year they are giving him the hook 18.8% of the time, the highest rate in the game.  His -2.89 wCB/C is not the worst, but he is near the bottom 10%.  He was well above average against Uncle Charlie in 2011, but pitch values are not predictive.

Rottino’s bat does not play on a big league roster, much less at first base.  He hits lefties better than righties, but that is damning with faint praise.  The coming activations of Jason Bay and Ruben Tejada will push him off the roster.

Of course it is too simplistic to blame injuries and illness for Davis’ woes.  ESPN’s Sweetspot blog highlights how poorly he is handling pitches on the outer part of the zone.  Local sources offer more nebulous theories.  Whatever the true reason there is enough amiss here that a quick turnaround is unlikely.  Since he is not starting full-time he should be dropped in mixed leagues with fifteen teams or less (except those with lots of bench space).  Any turnaround will be marked by an increase in ISO and an improvement in BB/K ratio.  Keep an eye on those components, a big second half remains possible.


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