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.