What Is Up (Besides Your Frustration) With Ike Davis?

While Ike Davis may not have been the super-trendy sleeper this year like he was going into 2012, he was still marketed as a nice buy-low candidate after a rough opening two months last year masked the significant improvements he made in the second half of the season. I (along with countless other owners) scooped him up for $5-8 in more than a couple drafts this year, and even went to $14 in our new Fangraphs Ottoneu staff league. But on the young season, “Vanilla Ike” has done nothing but disappoint to the tune of a .165/.265/.318 triple slash. After opening the year as the Mets cleanup hitter, he has been dropped a couple times in the lineup and there are even rumblings about a possible minor league demotion. Eek.

So what’s up? His K%, for starters. However, he put up months last season (May and July) that rivaled his to-date 29% strikeout rate so it’s not unprecedentedly bad for him. We can take a quick peek at Davis’ xBABIP and see how unlucky (or even lucky?) his BABIP is so far in the going. His LD% (the heaviest weight in xBABIP) remains above 21% and (using 2012) constants, this puts his xBABIP at .290. Without going through the whole league, it’s almost certain Davis is in the top “unlucky” tier of National League players when it comes to batted balls. Even if you want to be an absolute pessimist (the worst kind!) and say Davis’ true BABIP should lie somewhere between his current figure and his xBABIP, his AVG/OBP looks closer to .210/.310 than the current .165/.265 mark.

That mark wouldn’t be great, but you didn’t draft Davis for average (although, I’ll admit, I thought he was a sneaky play in OBP leagues over some guys like Eric Hosmer). You drafted him for taters. Well, that’s unfortunate, since his power has been noticeably absent this year. On the season, Davis has only four longballs which is a little more than half of the ~7 homer/month average he put up after May of last season. His ISO has dropped from .240 (in an abbreviated 2011) and .235 (2012) to .153 this year. More statistical flukiness?

The news here isn’t so good. His fly ball distance is way down this year to 267.6 feet (300.3 last season). Yeah, that’s definitely the opposite of good. It’s tough to figure how that fits into his HR/FB% rate, which, (small sample size alert) is near/slightly above his career average at 19.0%. It appears when Davis makes solid contact, he can still easily drive a ball out of the park but he’s making far weaker contact on the majority of his non-HR fly balls. Perhaps a feast or famine type approach to lifting the ball beyond the infield which means his home run rate isn’t dramatically affected, but his gap power is sapped.

Interestingly, this all comes as Davis has actually seen an uptick in FB%. Opposing pitchers are throwing him the heater 58% of the time (compared to a 51% career mark). This could mean a few things; perhaps teams think Davis is trying too hard to pull pitches on the outer half and is exploited easily or perhaps they feel his bat speed is slow enough that they can sneak heaters past him even when they are ahead in counts. Regardless, it’s clear Davis needs to be figure out a way to drive some of these fastballs and, until then, there’s no reason to work offspeed stuff against him.

Another unalleviated concern is Davis’ already sketchy platoon split has grown worse in 2013. After roughly 100 PA, he now is rocking a 5/81 LHP/RHP wOBA+ split. Yes, it’s one month, but so far that ratio is far worse this his career 72/129 mark. Owners may have already been sitting him against LHP in leagues with daily lineup moves, but he could be pushing the Mets to play him as a straight platoon player before too long. This could be crucial for those in weekly leagues, points leagues, or leagues with few/no bench slots.

So what should you do with Davis? Buy? Sell? Hold? It’s a tough call since there are mixed signals in the early going. There is no reason to believe his batting average and on-base percentage won’t rebound thanks to an insanely unlucky ball in play split in April. This is also the second season in a row where he has opened the year in horrendous fashion, and we all know how last year finished. However, it’s not all roses; his power is down and it doesn’t appear to be a fluke. He’s struggling to make solid contact when he puts the ball in the air and pitchers are (successfully) challenging him with a high percentage of fastballs. In deeper leagues, I’m holding or trying to snag him as a platoon guy when I have the bench spots to sit him against lefties. However, I also just cut him loose in a 10-team head-to-head league since it got to the point where he was hurting my shallow team too much to roster. He’s right at that threshold, and as the early season embargo on panicking about players’ April stats lifts, the next few weeks will go a long ways towards determining what kind of role Davis plays on his fantasy teams this season.




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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

20 Responses to “What Is Up (Besides Your Frustration) With Ike Davis?”

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  1. NatsFan73 says:

    He’s just not a very good player. Call it New York Hype Syndrome if you like, but occasional bouts of decent hitting seem to be his exception rather than the norm. As far as fantasy first basemen go, you can do better…

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    • attgig says:

      32 home runs after hitting 5 by the end of may 2012? 32 hr’s is still pretty good fantasy-wise.

      the problem with your statement: “As far as fantasy first basemen go, you can do better…” is that most of the better first basemen in my league are claimed as keepers. there’s about 8 or so that are clearly better drafts (pujols, fielder, votto, goldschmidt, gonzo, encarnacion, butler, & posey if you play him at 1st).

      the rest are near even or worse in terms of risk/reward…
      when you’re in a league of anything over 8…. Ike’s going to end up a pretty high pick to fill the power 1st base slot on a fantasy team. Just cuz you’re a Nat’s fan and have a chip on your shoulder about the “ny media” hype….. don’t discount his fantasy value.

      Honestly, some guys are notorious slow starters (aramis ramirez comes to mind). Ike may just be one of them….

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      • NatsFan73 says:

        I’ve got nothing against NYMs generally. The years my Nats have been competative have been years the Mets were … not so much. My animosity is reserved for ATL and PHI.

        That being said, the fact that Ike may be the best available 1B in your league doesn’t not bring with it expectations that he should somehow be any good :)

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      • attgig says:

        yeah, being a mets fan living in the dc/bmore corridor, I have nothing against the Nats…. my animosity is reserved for ATL & PHI… :)

        and seriously… at the end of the year, if he gets back to last year’s hr totals… I’ll consider him to be somehow, at least, a little bit good.

        plus the fact that I’m sitting him against left handers right now, and making up some stats by starting other hot hands… I think my production will be pretty decent out of the 1b hole…. of course, that IS a big if to replicate last year’s numbers.

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  2. Urban Shocker says:

    Traded him for Ethier to a power starved owner here.

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  3. Eminor3rd says:

    The problem with Ike Davis is that he’s not Paul Goldschmidt

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      That was actually a pretty solid video. Think you’ve got to analyze players with both stats and mechanics (video).

      Funny how every team knows to pitch Ike away and yet teams still keep pitching Dexter Fowler in…

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  4. Row says:

    I just dropped him in a keeper OBP league. He didn’t even see the ‘field’ as my 3rd 1B and I’d rather have useful depth elsewhere.

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  5. Jaker says:

    CAN YOU PLEASE ADD xBABIP TO PLAYER TABLES!?

    Sorry for yelling.

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    • Toffer Peak says:

      I don’t know how useful adding xBABIP really is. It’s still pretty raw, doesn’t necessarily have a large correlation with future BABIP, and is vulnerable to stringer bias. It’s also difficult for the average person to use it properly. As opposed to FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA that all correlate to and expected (E)RA, what does knowing a player’s BABIP tell you exactly other than they should be hitting some amount better or worse?

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  6. Brian says:

    He is completely lost. The stats back it up, but the eyes back it up more. I don’t think any # we can analyze tells the story as well as watching him flail around up there like he’s never held a bat before.

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  7. MLB Rainmaker says:

    Just a comment on BAPIP — It should be noted that low BAPIP is both an indicator of luck and an indicator of poor contact. Just like we can say that some players show a higher than average career BAPIP, because they tend to have better contact skills (i.e. square the ball up better), its also symptomatic of poor contact skills to exhibit a low BAPIP.

    While that argument is generally accepted, its also possible that the same player over time may see baseline BAPIP regression due to mechanics. I think that is the case with Ike — per the video from attgig above, Ike isn’t staying back on the ball and lunging which is zapping his power. Zapping power not only on HR, but also on LD and GB, which is pulling down his BAPIP. So I think its not just a case of bad luck, its a case of bad mechanics and there is no “regression to the mean” for bad mechanics — he will either fix it or he won’t.

    Rather than holding him and waiting, you’re better off dumping him and keeping a close eye for him to heat up.

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  8. STEALTH says:

    I’m loathe to give up on him as I already did with Moustakas because I know the 35-HR power resides somewhere in Ike Davis. However, I’ve come to the point of wanting to cut him loose in my 10-teamer. The problem is, the best 1B available are Brandon Belt and Chris Carter. As lost as Davis is, I don’t think he is worse than those two.

    I’ve been floating around trade offers for Goldschmidt, Freeman, Chris Davis, and Trumbo, but no dice so far. The Goldy owner liked the value I offered but just didn’t want to part with him. So it goes in the trading game. I guess I’m just left to ride with Ike…

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  9. Jon L. says:

    I felt so clever for grabbing Ike, then barely used him and felt dumb for wasting roster space on him. He had a great month once, and then four pretty great months all in a row.

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  10. Steve says:

    it’s Valley Fever

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  11. Brooks says:

    I’d like to know what exactly is considered a line drive because I watch every single Met game and I can tell you right now that Ike does not hit a line drive one out of five times.

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  12. LeBusch says:

    Yikes. I just traded for him and Duda as a speculative move in exchange for AJ Griffin and (I think) a broken John Danks. Definitely don’t plan to use him against lefties but a demotion is a real possibility? I wanted to platoon him with Konerko..

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