Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market: Ike Davis' early struggles

by Nicholas Minnix on May 9, 2012 @ 08:39:12 PDT

 


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In terms of figurative stature, Ike Davis pales in comparison to Albert Pujols. In terms of 2012 performance, they're neck and neck. A lot of fantasy baseball players thought that Davis might narrow the gap a bit this season, but they expected that gap to be at the other end of the spectrum.

Davis owners should turn away. They torture themselves enough with daily glances past that line filled with stats like his .167 batting average, three home runs and nine RBIs. The left-handed hitter has fanned 31 times and walked only eight in 110 plate appearances. He hasn't batted cleanup since April 21.

Hopeful owners have taken solace in their expectation of some regression of the popular columns on his FanGraphs page, especially his .206 average on balls in play, which is more than 100 points less than his career rate. He must be making solid contact, with a line-drive rate of 18.3 percent, right?

But the fix will involve much more than some better luck. Just judging from Davis' batted-ball dispersal, he's continued the all-fields approach that put him on his way to a breakthrough 2012 - that is, before he injured his ankle in a collision with David Wright almost one year ago to the day - but he hasn't hit the ball nearly as well.

After two years with grounder rates in the low 40s, the left-handed hitter has rolled it 53.5 percent of the time this season. Conversely, he hasn't generated much lift, and when he has, it's ended up in the infield twice as often as it did in his first two seasons.

In spring training, the New York Mets feared that he had a case of valley fever, but tests demonstrated that, if he did, he was already rid of it. That's quite common. He reported no symptoms in the spring and claimed to feel 100 percent, and he maintains that he's healthy.

His batting average, of course, is not. Terry Collins thinks that the poor results are a byproduct of all the time his first baseman missed last year, which is reasonable. Collins believes that Davis just has to keep at it. "... there's no substitute for playing time."

A long layoff is sure to be detrimental to Davis' timing. New York Post columnist Kevin Kernan describes Davis as "a rhythm hitter with lots of movement in his swing." Don't forget that the 25-year-old has less than a season and a half's worth of experience.

Physically, Davis appears to be off, and he looks a little lost. In the batter's box, he doesn't appear to have the energy that he did in 2011. Understandably, pitchers haven't been afraid to challenge him. He's fallen behind after the first pitch 63.6 percent of time, a high rate that has gone up for the second straight season.

At the dish, he's been raising his hands - in April, they began at head level, and lately, they've crept above his shoulders - before he loads. Perhaps that's part of his attempt to correct what he or someone else believes is a mechanical flaw. Last season, his hands began just below his head. The moving pieces didn't have to move as much. He was getting his front foot down much more quickly.

If Davis is a rhythm hitter and he's not in rhythm, he's probably making it more difficult to find the beat by lengthening the measure. The outcomes have come in the form of a lot of weak grounders, looping liners and pop-ups.

The easy answer to give to roto baseball managers: Davis will turn it around, so just sit tight. There's no telling how long it'll take for him to rebound, however. It's hard to suppose that his performance will get to the point at which the Mets seriously consider sending him down until he rediscovers his tempo, but it's possible.

Davis is probably tough to trade for something of much value. He was a mid-round pick in most deep mixed leagues; in those setups, you can go in any number of directions. In shallow mixers, unless you have a deep bench, you can let him go, especially if you need to address other problems. In NL-only leagues, suck it up because of the low quality of the options at the position. If you have a way to cover his spot, all the better.

Davis should get it going eventually, but the signs don't suggest that the end of his slump is right around the corner. The good news is that he's begun to look for answers.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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