5 Reasons Ike Davis Will Make the Mets Look Smart for Not Sending Him Down
It's been hard to like Ike this year.
Mets first baseman Ike Davis has shown no sign of waking up from his nightmare season at the plate. Davis was sidelined for most of 2011 with an ankle injury, and as this season started, his batting woes were considered disappointing but not surprising. Many players have difficulty regaining their batters' eye after returning from a long-term injury.
Now, with two full months completed, Davis continues to be inexplicably inept. He's been on the interstate all season. As of Monday, he was batting .164. The closest he's gotten to hitting his weight (230 pounds) this year is .188.
Davis has attributed his bad hitting to bad luck. Coaches haven't noticed any particularly troubling anomalies in his swing. Manager Terry Collins hopes that Davis will work through his slump, although he hasn't ruled out the possibility of sending him to the minors to do that.
Here are five reasons why he shouldn't.
Best at First
Davis' problems at the plate have not extended to first base.
Davis and David Wright have been solid anchors in an injury-plagued infield. The Mets are on their sixth shortstop so far this season (that's counting Wright's fill-in appearances at the position). There have been youngsters like Jordany Valdespin and Justin Turner, and seasoned veterans like Ronny Cedeño and current starter Omar Quintanilla.
Davis has had to adjust to the different strengths and weaknesses of all of those players, and that's no easy task. His five errors so far this season are on pace to overtake the nine errors he committed in his rookie year, but the infield lineup wasn't in constant flux then.
No one else on the current roster is as skilled at first as Davis. The Mets need a reliable presence there to keep up their success.
The Precarious 'Pen
There's another reason why Ike Davis' fielding is so crucial this season. The bullpen.
Put a reliever on the mound in a close game and CitiField holds its collective breath. There's not much confidence that anyone from the bullpen can hold a one- or two-run lead.
More than once has a game been saved by a defensive gem. Sending one of your best defensive players to the minors isn't a good move when you've got a bullpen that isn't known for one-two-three innings.
Teams can keep winning with a key player in a slump, even one as severe as Davis'. Other players can pick up the slack. On defense, one bad play can lead to a loss. With the Mets facing some tough competition in the coming weeks, they'll need Davis' defense more than any other time this season.
He's Got the Power
The Mets are not a power-hitting team.
Sure, they get their share of extra-base hits. Going yard is another story. Even moving in the fences at CitiField hasn't helped much.
There was even a brief period this season when Ike Davis led the team in homers with five, although he's now been surpassed by Lucas Duda (9), Scott Hairston (7) and David Wright (6). Davis is fifth on the team in driving in runs
With those numbers, there might be something to Davis' contention that he's been the victim of bad luck. He's hit the ball hard, but usually right at an opposing player.
Consider this: although Davis has a paltry 28 hits on the season, he's hit five home runs and five doubles. That indicates there isn't anything wrong with his batting eye, and that's a promising sign that he'll improve.
Some managers believe one way to deal with a problem player is to get rid of him.
Others believe there's nothing to be gained by throwing a promising talent under the bus because of a few rotten weeks.
You won't find Mets manager Terry Collins lurking around any bus stops.
There's been a lot of speculation about whether Ike Davis' weak hitting is a result of his mechanics or his mind. Collins himself has said that Davis has lost confidence in his swing.
That leaves Collins with two choices: he can help Davis get his mind right, or he can shuffle him off to Buffalo and risk destroying what little confidence Davis has left.
In the end, Collins told Davis that he is his first baseman.
Smart move. By the end of the season, it could make Collins look positively brilliant.
Who Else on First?
Let's examine two important decisions Mets manager Terry Collins has made this season.
His hardest, by far, was whether to keep Johan Santana in last week's game to complete his no-hitter. How do you choose between a high pitch count and history? If Collins had pulled Santana, the fans would have run him out of town. If Santana had damaged his surgically repaired shoulder, Collins would have been vilified for his lack of vision.
It was a very difficult decision indeed.
But Collins' decision to keep Ike Davis in the big leagues? Not so much.
It was really about just one question: who would replace Davis? The Mets gave 32-year-old journeyman Vinny Rottino a crack at it. Rottino did swat his first-ever major league homer (he's spent a lot of time in the minors), but now he's spelling Wright at third and backing up the shortstop du jour.
After Rottino, there's ... um, uh ... uh ...
Anybody seen Ed Kranepool lately?