By Michael Mandelkern
The 2013 New York Mets season is two-thirds of the way complete, but there are only a few grains left in Ike Davis’s hourglass. He has deteriorated from his explosive second half of the 2012 season but fans cannot forget about his enormous potential. On the other hand many people are fed up with him and cannot wait to see him go. This is the enigma of Davis, the man everyone hopes will produce but few have faith in anymore.
Davis suffered valley fever throughout the first half of the 2012 season and was on the verge of getting sent down to the minor leagues, but he made a U-turn in early June 2012 and still finished with 32 home runs and 90 RBI. His average was low at .227 but many still viewed him as the power first baseman of the future.
He began the 2013 season in good health to solidify his standing in the Mets core but got off to another slow start this season. The Mets demoted him on June 9. He found success in AAA Las Vegas and returned to the Mets on July 5, going 3-5 with 2 RBI against the Milwaukee Brewer but batted a meager .242 with one home run and 9 RBI in July. His .382 on-base percentage last month reflects his improved patience at the plate, but his power has vanished.
Davis has been anemic in unfavorable counts this season. He is 0-18 with 11 strikeouts and no walks on an 0-2 count and 2-41 on a 1-2 count. His overall batting average, on-base percentage and production numbers for the season are nothing to write home about either: .180/.279/.561 with six home runs and 25 RBI.
Regardless of his struggles, Davis should not be in a platoon with Josh Satin. Even though Satin hit .375 with a .500 on-base percentage in July he has spent the majority of his baseball career in the minor leagues for a reason. He cannot fill the void at first base in the long term. The Mets could have waited to call Davis back up when Satin fell back down to Earth. The “Hail Satin” craze is mainly out of frustration with Davis.
The Mets wanted to see improvement from Davis yet they cut down his playing time. However, Davis has started the majority of games since his return to the Mets and has had ample opportunity all season to prove his worth. It is his fault that he got sent down to the minors and cannot return to his mid-2012 form. But sitting Davis against tough lefty starters only allows Alderson to evaluate him as a platoon player.
The ambivalence on Davis reached a breaking point on July 31 against the Miami Marlins. The Mets were down 3-2 in the top of the eighth inning with two outs and David Wright on third base. Davis was up to bat and the Marlins bullpen countered with a lefty reliever. He was in the midst of a multi-hit game with an RBI-double, but Collins pinch-hit Satin. He flew out. It would be fair to assume that Davis would have struck out, and Satin has better statistics against left-handed pitchers, but only based on a small sample size.
The Mets are at fault for sending Davis back up prematurely and limiting his playing time, but it is entirely his fault that he is falling disturbingly short of expectations. Alderson considered him to be part of the core in early June, after another early slump, which underscores how difficult it is for the manager to let go of someone with 30 home run/100 RBI potential.
Davis has tweaked his swing and batting stance under pressure from the media and his coaches, but his underlying issues seem to be mental. He could still finish the season strong, but chances are Davis will be gone in a New York minute.