|The Mets face a tough decision in the coming months. Which first baseman should they keep? Is there a third person involved in this conundrum? Photo from newsday.com
In an argument that have ramifications not only for my Mets, but for baseball in general, it's unclear who the Mets should stick with at first base: either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda. Two young, struggling players who have a lot of potential, but haven't been able to figure it out thus far.
Davis has gone through notorious slumps to begin each of the last two seasons. In fact, they were eerily similar, which isn't a good thing. I looked at his stats in 2012 from Opening Day until his batting average reached its lowest point of the season, .158 on June 8. Usually I wouldn't look at batting average, but Ike was obviously swinging at everything, and whiffing. It was painful to watch. In that span, he started 49 games while appearing in 56 of them. He posted an abysmal .234/.273/.507 OBP/SLG/OPS slash line. He also managed to strike out 59 times in 56 games. And yet, he kept playing, and he seemed to turn it around, relatively of course, through the end of the year. From June 9, 2012 on, Davis looked not only like an actual major leaguer, but a great one. He started 88 games, and played in 100 in total, and was so much better overall. His slash line became.347/.565/.913 and he cut down the strikeouts significantly, only striking out 82 times. That gave Mets fans a lot of hope coming into 2013 about Davis's prospects.
But of course, he killed those dreams...quickly. He was disgustingly bad for the first two months of the year, and even inspired this Twitter account, tracking whether or not he struck out during each at bat. Take a look at how many times the answer was "yes." It was rather pathetic. I even wrote an article pleading with the Mets to send him down to AAA Las Vegas to figure out what the hell was going on with him. It was on June 9 when the Mets mercifully sent him down to AAA Las Vegas to find himself. Up until that point, he had played in 55 games, started 49, and posted had a .242/.258/.500 line. Not to mention the 66 strikeouts.
Upon his return, the results were marvelous. I was away for all but 10 days of the Ike Davis Revival, but it was fantastic. The power numbers were down a little bit, but he showed patience at the plate and looked like a great hitter. His .429/.443/.872 slash line was very impressive, especially because his OBP output increased so drastically. The increase in patience that he exhibited is such a key factor in good hitting. It's what separates the good, like Adam Jones, from the great, such as Michael Nelson Trout or Joey Votto. I can't stress this enough, maintaining an OBP that high for a two month stretch, while it doesn't necessarily mean that it will hold up for a full season, shows that the player is capable of the plate discipline such an accomplishment requires.
Despite getting hurt, Davis showed an enormous amount of potential at the end of last season, and maybe this time it will carry over into the beginning of the next year.
As for Lucas Duda, he's a character. He's easily the worst outfielder in the MLB, so there's no chance that the Mets move him back to the outfield. So it seems that the only option is first base. How does he compare to Davis? Consistent isn't a word that can be used to describe Duda in a vacuum, but relative to Ike Davis, it's a proper adjective for Duda. Even as his batting average declined at the end of last season, his OBP stayed rather steady. The worrisome part was his sharp decline in power. His slugging percentage went from .438 through the end of June, when he first got injured, to .359 upon his return from injury and a minor league stint in August through the end of the year. Yes, the sample is kind of small, but it's still something to look out for. It seems that when he is right, Duda is someone who can get on base at a constant rate, while Ike Davis only showed that prowess at the end of last year.
Now here's the key in this debate, Josh Satin. I'm going to say this repeatedly, until he proves me wrong, but I believe that Satin has the potential to be one of the best first basemen in the league. He won't pass the eye test, but I've compared him to Allen Craig. Both are hitters with high OBPs who hit with sneaky great power. Obviously, Satin hasn't shown this in the majors yet, but those are stats that usually translate pretty well to the major leagues. Given the reigns, he will show off his ability.
The Mets aren't going anywhere this year, so there's no use in sticking with the mediocre floor, above average ceiling that Lucas Duda brings. I'd rather that the Mets trade him, and keep Ike Davis, who has the potential to be the worst hitter in the league, or an MVP candidate. If he does underperform, I feel that Satin is a very safe bet to slide in and produce at first base. Because of how good I think Satin is, I would let Davis loose, and drive up his value to get players to improve at other places on this team. There's no use in having a logjam at one position, and I doubt most teams in the league appreciate Satin's talent. We all know that the Mets could be trading a great hitter, but as long as they parlay that into a better overall roster, it's worth the drop off in spectacle despite the production output not changing drastically.
With that, I wave goodbye to Lucas Duda. There's no place for him on this team anymore. What exactly they could get for him? Unless they include Daniel Murphy in the offer, I don't know if it will be very much, but I'm certainly willing to get rid of both of those guys.