Before the season, many Mets fans — myself included — expected Ike Davis would be one of the Mets’ best players, if not the Mets’ best player. Now, we talk about Ike Davis like he’s the worst kid on a Little League team. We celebrate his few loud outs and commend him for working deep into counts and excuse him when he’s victimized by what looks to be a questionable call by an umpire.
All that stuff has happened, no doubt. On top of everything else, Davis has very likely been unlucky this year. He’s got a .202 batting average on balls in play — well below his career .301 mark — despite an 18.5 percent line-drive percentage that actually betters his career rate. Still, he’s not putting as many balls in play, striking out more than he ever has before. And he’s not walking as much as he has in the past, either.
It’s not good. And the measures taken to fix Davis thus far don’t seem to have worked. Every time he appears to be coming out of his funk, he goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Early in the season, I was certain it was a bad idea to demote Davis based on a miserable slump over a small sample. As the sample grows larger and Davis continues to struggle, I’m no longer convinced it’s a bad idea. Davis and Terry Collins maintain that the first baseman needs to right himself at the big-league level, but he looks so lost that it seems like it can’t hurt to right him in Triple-A first. One-step-at-a-time type stuff.
With Jason Bay ready to come back and roster shuffling afoot, it’s hard to argue that the Mets’ best lineup right now includes Davis playing in it. I suspect his defense — currently maligned after he booted a ball last night — has prevented some throwing errors by his teammates, but it’s hard to imagine he has saved them anywhere near as many runs in the field as he has cost them at the plate.
If the Mets were already fading in the standings, it’d seem reasonable to stick with Davis until he turns it around. But the longer they stay in contention, the better the likelihood that they’ll be in contention at the end of the season. And if that’s the case, they’re going to want every win they can get. Davis, right now, is costing them wins.
But then regression is a powerful force in baseball, and there’s still more evidence that Davis is a capable Major League hitter than that he isn’t. If 12 more of his batted balls to date had fallen in for singles, his batting average on balls in play would be right near his career mark and he’d have a more palatable (but still bad) batting line around .230/.290/.345. That would, I suspect, be enough to stave off the demotion talk, especially with the Mets comfortably above .500.
Which is to say: I don’t know. People expect (and often provide) firm opinions on things like this, but the complexities and inherent randomness in baseball lend the sport to wishy-washiness. Maybe the Mets send Davis to Triple-A and he turns it around immediately, then comes back in a few weeks and leads them to the playoffs. Maybe they do, it crushes his confidence and he struggles all season. Maybe they stick with him and he goes to town on Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch next weekend, then enjoys a prolonged hot stretch to match this slump. Maybe they stick with him and he stinks all year.
I am firm in my ambivalence on this one. Sorry. Call it a copout if you want, but I’m not going to argue on behalf of something I don’t fully believe.