Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘Ike Davis’ Category

Something Nice, 4/23/11

Posted by JD on April 23, 2011

That was an interesting game to watch. Dillon Gee had a strong showing, Jason Bay knocked in three runs and was named Player of the game, Daniel Murphy had some adventures in the field but knocked in the go-ahead and insurance runs, and Bay and Ike Davis hit back to back titanic home runs (I think Ike’s may have dented the Pepsi Porch steps). There were lots of moving pieces in the Mets’ third consecutive win.

For today’s “Something Nice”, I’m going with Jose Reyes’ performance. He walked to lead off the first inning and, upon advancing to third, walked a quarter of the way toward home taunting Diamondbacks pitcher Barry Enright (he and David Wright would go on to score when Jason Bay singled). It was classic Reyes gamesmanship and even though it didn’t work, it was great to see him agitating the opposition again. He would finish 2-4 with two runs scored and, to top it off, he successfully generated a balk in the eighth inning. He didn’t steal a single base, but it was a classic Jose Reyes game. I’m just happy I was there to watch it in person.

Posted in David Wright, Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Mets, Something Nice | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Something Nice, 4/21/11

Posted by JD on April 22, 2011

Where to start? Jason Bay returned from the disabled list and had a nice game, going one for four with two runs scored (one of which was courtesy of a dropped fly ball by Hunter Pence). Terry Collins single-handedly willed the Mets to win by switching up their uniforms and getting tossed in the first inning. Ike Davis picked up two more RBI, one on a home run to center (not exactly the easiest thing to do at Citi Field). Chris Capuano had a quality start, and Taylor Buchholz closed the door in relief. Good candidates all, and certainly worthy of honorable mentions, but not quite it.

Mike Nickeas opened the scoring in the bottom of the third with his first career major league home run, a solo shot to left field. I wish I was there to see it: despite his shortcomings, I can’t help but root for him. Not much of a hitter (he has a .680 OPS in 1,803 career minor league plate appearances), Nickeas is only on the roster until Ronny Paulino returns from injury. I’m glad he got to have a moment that he’ll remember (and likely treasure) for the rest of his life. It’s not every day that you see something like that happen, but as great a moment as it was, there was something more important for Mets fans.

Today’s “Something Nice” goes to David Wright, who snapped a career high 20 at-bat hitless streak with a solo home run. Wright would go on to get another hit and a walk and finished the day 2-for-3 with two runs scored. The Mets’ best player had his best game in a week or so and got himself a completely meaningless stat to boot: his fourth-inning home run was the “game winning RBI”. Only time will tell if Wright is about to go on a hot streak, but for one night it was awesome to see him display the talents that have made him the Mets best position player of all time*.

*Well, not yet. Not technically: Darryl Strawberry still holds that distinction. But Wright is blurring the line and it’s only a matter of time before he takes that title.

Posted in David Wright, Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Terry Collins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nick Evans, And The Battle for Bench Spots

Posted by JD on February 27, 2011

Jack DiLaurio had a decent debut season with the 1969 Mets, a less-successful second season with the Astros, and was out of the majors (never to return) before his third season started. Reading his SABR Bio Project entry I was struck by his approach to his situation. I don’t know if “fatalistic” is accurate, but DiLaurio knew that his path to the majors was blocked in the Detroit organization by better pitchers. He realized that, at age 26, he was running out of time to realize his dream of making the majors and consigned himself to retiring if he didn’t make the team in 1969. Fate intervened (in the form of then farm director Whitey Herzog pushing to first trade for, then promote, him) and DiLaurio made some useful contributions to the Miracle Mets, but his struggle to make the majors really stuck with me.

In terms of the current roster, I can’t help wondering if Nick Evans feels that same desperation (again, not sure if that’s exactly the right word, but it feels close) DiLaurio felt. The Mets’ treatment of Evans has been puzzling at best. Originally an injury replacement for the concussed Ryan Church, Evans made the jump from AA on May 28, 2008 and it was impressive: 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He was sent down on June 4th after hitting just .174/.208/.304 in nine games, but came back on July 10th and steadily improved. His final line: .257/.303/.404 in 119 plate appearances. Not great, but not bad either (he was only 22 at the time).

Evans didn’t make the club out of spring training (Gary Sheffield took his spot at the last second) and split the season between AA Binghamton, AAA Buffalo, and the Mets. 2010 wasn’t much different: he opened the season in Binghamton, was promoted to Buffalo, and spent September with the Mets. What’s more, he spent most of his time in the minors even though it was apparent that Ike Davis was solidifying his claim as the first baseman of the future.

To this fan, it appeared as if the organization was neglecting his development. Yet, there was reason for him to be optimistic about his chances: not only did a new management team take over with a mandate to limit off-season spending, but Fernando Tatis was allowed to depart as a free agent. Tatis filled the role most suited for Evans: right handed hitter off the bench who had some power and could fill in adequately as a corner infielder and outfielder. With Terry Collins elevated from farm coordinator to major league manager, it seemed as if Evans had a clear path to the majors.

And then the Mets signed Scott Hairston. A second baseman who can play all three outfield positions capably, Hairston is a right-handed hitter who has good power, especially to pull. He doesn’t play first or third, but when you consider that both Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy play third and Murphy was an above-average first baseman for the Mets in 2009, Hairston’s versatility in the outfield suddenly loomed as a major road block for Evans.

I see the bench competition unfolding like this: Ronny Paulino (Mike Nickeas until Paulino’s PED suspension runs out) as back-up catcher, Chin-lung Hu as back-up middle infielder, the loser of the Emaus/Murphy second base competition, Willie Harris as back-up outfielder/lefty pinch hitter/pinch runner, and Evans or Hairston.

In my eyes, Harris’ presence negates the advantage that Evans has over Hairston, and vice versa. Evans advantage? Corner infield. Willie Harris has played 28 games at third. Hairston’s advantage? Center field. Harris has played 230 games in center. Evans is out of options, but Hairston was signed to a major league deal.

It will come down to who performs better in Spring Training, which is how it should be. The competition should bring the best out of both players and will strengthen the Mets’ bench. I just can’t help but wonder what Evans’ frame of mind is. He’s 25, which is young in real-life terms but dangerously middle aged for a baseball player who hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. Does he doubt himself at all? Is he hoping to be traded or released or claimed on waivers, to get a fresh start somewhere else? Is he feeling emotions similar to what DiLaurio felt? It’s not the biggest story in camp this year, not by a long shot. But it’s intriguing enough to merit watching.

I don’t know (can’t know, really) who will help the Mets more this season. Hairston has a longer track record and is more athletic, so it seems to me that he has to be the favorite. But I feel for Nick Evans, and hope he has an excellent spring training. And, I hope that he’ll be given a fair shot to win a job on the bench. If he gets a shot and fails, so be it. But given his performance and how well he’s handled being bounced around over the past two years, he’s earned a fair chance to win a spot.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets, Offseason Moves, Spring Training, Terry Collins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

One Year Wonders

Posted by JD on February 22, 2011

As I was ranking Mets players with Presidential surnames, I noticed a few of them only had one year tenures with the team. This got me to wondering which one-year Mets were the most productive, and I was back on the Baseball Reference Play Index before I knew it. The results are listed below (as with the President list, I’m relying exclusively on the version of WAR (rWAR) used by Baseball Reference).

One note before we start: I omitted the best “one-year Met” from my list. Ike Davis had a 2.5 rWAR in his rookie year, which easily tops all of the other contenders. Seeing as how he’ll be the starting first baseman this season, I figured he didn’t technically qualify. If he suffers a career-ending injury before the season starts feel free to blame me for jinxing him. Now, on to the list:

10. Derek Bell (1.3 rWAR, 2000): A throw-in in the Mike Hampton deal (at least, that’s how I always looked at it); Bell was the starting right fielder for most of the 2000 season (a season ending injury late in the year prevented him from playing in the postseason). He slashed .266/.348/.425 in 624 plate appearances over 144 games. He added 18 home runs and 69 RBI, but his 98 OPS+ indicates that he was slightly below average for a right fielder.

My favorite Derek Bell memory has nothing to do with his time on the Mets. He signed a two-year deal with the Pirates after the 2000 to be their starting right fielder. When informed that he would have to compete for his starting job, Bell launched his infamous “Operation Shutdown”. From the Wikipedia:

“Nobody told me I was in competition. If there is competition, somebody better let me know. If there is competition, they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they’re going to do with me. I ain’t never hit in spring training and I never will. If it ain’t settled with me out there, then they can trade me. I ain’t going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is [a competition], then I’m going into ‘Operation Shutdown.’ Tell them exactly what I said. I haven’t competed for a job since 1991.”

That’s one of the best sports quotes I’ve ever heard, trailing only Latrell Sprewell’s “I got my family to feed” and Rasheed Wallace’s epic “As long as somebody CTC, at the end of the day I’m with them. For all you that don’t know what CTC means, that’s ‘Cut the Check.” If I ever re-name this blog, Cut The Check is the hands-down favorite to be the new name.

9. Richie Ashburn (1.3 rWAR, 1962): While technically tied with Bell, I couldn’t bring myself to equate a Hall of Famer with “Operation Shutdown”. After all, Ashburn played his final season with the inaugural 1962 Mets, which was inglorious enough. He slashed .306/.424/.393 and had a 122 OPS+, an incredible line for a 35 year-old. In fact, Whitey’s .424 OBP stood as the team record (minimum 400 at-bats, an entirely arbitrary threshold) until John Olerud topped it.

8. Rick Cerrone (1.4 rWAR, 1991): Even though I remember Cerrone on the Mets in 1991, I have always thought of him as a Yankee. That’s why I was surprised to learn that he played for six other teams (Cleveland, Toronto, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Boston, and Montreal). Another interesting factoid is that 1991 was the second most valuable season of his career (in terms of rWAR, at least), trailing only his 1980 season (3.9 rWAR for the Yankees).

6. & 7. Joe Foy and Duke Snider (1.4 rWAR, 1970 & 1963): We touched on Foy during the Presidential post, but I’ll say it again: just an unnecessary trade. Duke Snider’s story was similar to Ashburn’s in that he was a past-his-prime future Hall of Famer still hanging around. Unlike Ashburn, Snider had a connection to the Mets as one of the brightest stars of one of the franchises they were meant to replace, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Snider didn’t play much center for the Mets, appearing in only 11 games there in 1963, but while his bat was not up to his previous standards he did have an above-average OPS+ (115). He would finish his career in 1964 with the San Francisco, making him one of only four men to play for the Giants, Dodgers, and Mets. The other three are listed at the bottom of the post.

5. Dick Schofield (1.8 rWAR, 1992): Jayson Werth’s uncle was acquired from the then-California Angels along with a PTBNL (Julian Vasquez) for Julio Valera. Schofield was a defense-first shortstop with an excellent arm, but he was a pretty poor hitter. That’s being nice actually. According to the Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Schofield Schofield shares the record (with Mark Belanger) for most seasons with more than 400 at-bats and less than 100 hits with four. This seems like a bad thing, but it isn’t really. They are arbitrary thresholds, and some good players (including Mark McGwire, Ricky Henderson, and Barry Bonds, to pick just three) appear on the list. For the record, 12 other players had similar seasons with the Mets, including Dave Kingman, Todd Hundley, and Tommie Agee.

4. Desi Relaford (2.1 rWAR, 2001): Relaford falls into the nebulous category of “players I liked for no particular reason”. The Mets picked up on waivers from the San Diego Padres and paid him just $475,000, then later packaged him with the also-awesome Tsuyoshi Shinjo for Shawn Estes. 2001 was a career year for Relaford (he didn’t come close to replicating that season again) so Steve Phillips was right to try to sell high. Being Steve Phillips, however, he completely botched the transaction.

3. Eddie Bressoud (2.2 rWAR, 1966): I didn’t really know that much about Bressoud, who played all four infield positions (but primarily shortstop) for the 1966 Mets. Turns out he was very productive (at least in terms of Mets from that era): his single season with the Mets produced the third highest rWAR among position players to that point in the franchise’s history (behind Ron Hunt’s 2.6 and Ken Boyer’s 3.0). According to Baseball-Reference.com, he’s fairly similar (as a player, not necessarily as a person) to Tony Bernazard. I wonder how many times he challenged minor leaguers to a fight?

1. & 2. Tommy Davis and Richie Hebner (2.3 rWAR, 1967 and 1979): A Brooklyn native, Davis had an 18 year career for 10 teams. He actually lead all Mets position players in rWAR in 1967, admittedly not the most impressive achievement ever. A former MVP candidate (his 6.8 rWAR in 1963 trailed only Willie Mays and Frank Robinson that season), Davis was acquired along with Derrell Griffith in a trade for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. 1967 would be a last hurrah of sorts for Davis: he would never again be that productive, and he would play for 8 more teams over the next nine years. Unlike with Relaford, however, the Mets successfully sold high on Davis: packaged with three other players, he brought back Tommie Agee and Al Weis in a 1967 trade with the White Sox.

Richie Hebner also had an 18 year career, though he was much less traveled (he only played for five clubs). Hebner was known for digging graves during the offseason, but more importantly the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richie_Hebner notes that “Few people know that Rich Hebner has 3 heros: Jerry Flynn, his son Joe Hebner, and his nephew Michael Hebner.” I felt I had to do my part to spread that important piece of information, so there you go.

Hebner came and went before my Mets fandom began and nothing jumped off of his Baseball-Reference page, so I originally didn’t have anything else to add. That is, until I read his page over at the Ultimate Mets Database. Holy crap did this guy elicit a lot of raw emotion from Mets fans, and they are all over the map. I had no idea so many felt so strongly about a guy who was only here for one year. Bonus: someone defended him by calling him a “gamer”.

Trivia answer: Jim Pignatano, Orel Hershiser, and Darryl Strawberry.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Ike Davis, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

More on Ike Davis

Posted by JD on October 10, 2010

As we head into a week sure to be filled with exciting general manager interviews (I’m in the Sandy Alderson camp), I figured I’d use Baseball Reference’s Play Index to look at how some of the Mets’ seasons stacked up historically. I don’t know if I’ll make this a recurring series but I’ll probably come back to it during the long offseason. My first subject: Ike Davis.

Over at Amazin’ Avenue, Chris McShane (in this post) and James Kannengeiser (in his 2010 Postmortem: First Base) both looked at Ike Davis’ first season. Both are good reads and gave me inspiration for this post, which is an attempt to place Davis’ year in a larger historical context. I used the Play Index to look at the rookie seasons of every position player from 1901 to 2010 who qualified for the batting title, a list of 469 player-seasons. As you’ll see it’s a somewhat arbitrary comparison, but here we go:

The first take-away is the near-total absence of Mets: no Daryl Strawberry, no Jose Reyes, no David Wright. In fact, the only other Met rookie to qualify for a batting title was second baseman Ron Hunt, in 1963. In and of itself, it’s a trivial point: the other Mets rookies were either called up later in the season (like the three listed above), suffered injuries at some point in their rookie year (Reyes qualifies here, too), or weren’t good enough to earn enough at-bats to qualify. Nothing significant, just good trivia.

Sorting by Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, Davis checks in at 109 with a 2.5 BR WAR*, tying him with George Burns (1914), Jim Finigan (1954), Orlando Cepeda (1958), Chuck (not Curt) Schilling (1961), Ellis Burks (1987), and Austin Jackson (2010). For what it’s worth (which is not all that much), Davis had the fourth highest OPS+ of that group, trailing Cepeda (125), Finigan (120), and Burns (119).

*For the record, Ron Hunt nudged Davis with a 2.6 BR WAR, tied with Doc Smoot (1902), Mickey Doolan (1905), Lou Stringer (1941), Jerry Remy (1975), Jim Norris (1977), Kirby Puckett (1984), Ozzie Guillen (1985), David Eckstein (ugh, gross), and Tadahito Iguchi (2005). However, Hunt’s OPS+ was five points lower than Davis’.

Age strikes me as a relevant factor. There were 66 players on our list who were 23 on June 30th of their rookie season: only 15 had a better BR WAR than Davis’ 2.5 (Schilling and Jackson were also 23). Among them were Hall of Famers Paul Waner (5.7), Johnny Mize (4.9), Phil Rizzuto (4.3) and Joe Gordon (3.5), and future Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell (4.7). Only 11 rookies had a higher OPS+: Mize (161), Waner (147), Alvin Davis (147), Bagwell (139), Harry Lumley (136), Babe Herman (136), Grady Hatton (128), Bob Meusel (126), Joe Hauser (121), Moose McCormick (118), and Hall of Famer (and revered Mets broadcaster) Ralph Kiner (117). By these (arbitrary) measuring sticks Ike Davis had the best rookie season since Bagwell debuted in 1991. For what it’s worth.

James Kannengeiser calls Ike’s 12% walk rate encouraging, and he’s right: only 32 players had a higher ratio of walks to plate appearances in their first season (Davis’ raw total of 72 walks is 30th among rookies qualifying for the batting title). On the flip side, Ike’s 138 strike-outs tied him with former American League Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske for fifth worst overall. Only Pete Incaviglia (185), Jackson (170), George Scott (152), and Jake Wood (141) had more strike-outs. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I cherry-picked the stats discussed in this post. It’s meant to provide a historical context for Ike Davis’ rookie season and not to make a case for him to win Rookie of the Year (Jason Heyward tops Davis in many of the categories listed above and Buster Posey didn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title). Here’s the list: go to town on it and please let me know what you find.

My argument here is that in a lost season, Ike Davis’ performance was a legitimate bright spot. In some categories, his limited sample size of a career compares favorably to players who wound up in the Hall of Fame. By no means am I suggesting that Davis will join them. I am, however, suggesting that we can be encouraged by his rookie season and look forward to him being an important part of the 2011 line-up.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Hall of Fame, Ike Davis, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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