How much to like Ike?

The brief career of Ike Davis has already been a bit of a rollercoaster. After a solid rookie season in 2010, in which he showcased impressive power potential and foreshadowed considerable on-base skills, Davis built a legion of backers hoping for a breakout campaign in 2011. For the first two months of that season, Ike’s supporters were spending their time practicing their best “I told you so.” But, then Davis suffered an injury to his foot that somewhat inexplicably sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Going into 2012, the opinions on Davis widened. Some were skeptical of his health after the weird incident the previous year, some people basically forgot about him, and others pegged him as a strong sleeper. Last season was a tale of two halves for Davis, as he looked lost and over-matched pre-All-Star break, and then emerged as one of the games premier power threats in the second half. So, what’s in store for 2013?

First let’s lay out some facts about Davis’ 2012 and his pre-draft stock in 2013. Despite a nightmarish start to last season, Davis finished with 32 long balls and 90 rib-eye steaks. Both of those numbers ranked among the top at his position, and even across the board. Only 35 players drove in 90 in 2012, and only 27 hit 30 or more homers. Granted, these totals came with a .227 batting average and a mere 66 runs scored.

The fantasy community seems to remember the way Davis finished 2012. Mock Draft Central places his current ADP at around 90, the 14th first baseman off the board, 18 picks behind Ryan Howard and two ahead of Eric Hosmer.

I don’t think that Davis is all that enigmatic, but has rather been the victim of some extreme luck in either direction. First, Davis has been a victim of the wiles of BABIP. His .309 batting average in the truncated 2011 season was bolstered by an unsustainable .344 BABIP, while last season’s .227 was partially the product of a .246 BABIP. Davis is neither a .300 hitter, nor a .220 hitter. If I was drafting Davis in 2013, I’d be expecting somewhere in the .250-.260 range.

The power is certainly real. He has consistently hit about 40 percent of his batted balls in the air and is likely to maintain a HR/FB percent in the neighborhood of 20. I’d expect a homer total in the high 20s to low 30s. I also think that last year’s RBI total is about what to expect for this season, give or take.

I’d like to see a step forward in plate discipline; Davis looked very promising in this respect in his rookie season, but has since regressed slightly, perhaps partially due to facing more curveballs. A correcting of BABIP alone should help his runs totals a smidge, but if that was paired with a small step forward in on-base skills (say, .340+) he’d be a decent bet to score 85 runs, even in a questionable Mets line-up. I can’t bank on that though, so I’d be paying for about 75.

As I’ve already touched on, Davis has actually maintained fairly consistent patterns regarding balls in play, trajectory distribution, home run rate, and the like throughout his career. So, I think we know what kind of hitter he is. Perhaps the biggest difference in 2012 was the way he was pitched.

The league started feeding him a heavy diet of curveballs last season, leading to a bit of an uptick in his swinging strike percentage and first pitch strike percentage. Speaking anecdotally as a Mets fan for a moment, it did seem that early in the season Davis was down in the count 0-2 or 1-2 constantly.

According to pitch type date, it looks like his ability to handle the curve or at least mitigate the negative impact of seeing more curveballs improved throughout the season at least to the point that it wasn’t crippling. Davis still kills the fastball, so if he can maintain a league average performance against the curve he’ll get the fastballs he needs to crush those towering blasts into the Pepsi Porch.

All things considered, I actually felt pretty good about what I saw in regard to Davis and his 2011 and 2012 didn’t appear to be as different as the stats might lead one to believe. I’d be confident in expecting something in the neighborhood of .255/75/30/90, with no speed. This makes him a solid mid-tier first-baseman, with a bit of upside because he’s heading into what should be his physical prime. I’d consider him a reach inside the top 70, and start assigning steal potential outside the top 120.

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  1. Jules said...

    Derek, you are a mindreader. I’m 4 picks down in my slow draft, and wondering if there are any opinions out there about Ike Davis. Do I need to take him with my 6th pick (72) or can i wait…
    Thanks, as ever, for your insight. You’ve been a big help to me over the years, now going for the 6-peat!

  2. Hizouse said...

    Yeah, Derek, you should look up and mention the bit about Valley Fever, even if you think it’s just people grasping at straws.

  3. Caitlin said...

    As a Mets fan, I was really excited about Davis back in 2011. I know he’s not the best player around, but I’m not giving up hope that he can step up and give the Mets some help.

  4. A Mets Fan said...

    “I’d like to see a step forward in plate discipline; Davis looked very promising in this respect in his rookie season, but has since regressed slightly, perhaps partially due to facing more curveballs.”

    Ike also had somewhat of a personal war with umpires last year (at least early) where he would complain a lot and the more he complained the bigger the strike zone got. This probably messed with his discipline too. I mean yeah, he was a bit of a cry baby, but some of the called strikes against him were pretty atrocious too.

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