I'd like to say the race for best Mets rookie was a tight one, but while there were a number of interesting candidates the reality is that one player, Ike Davis, was far and away the best of the bunch, and it showed in his unanimous selection as our 2010 Mets Best Rookie award winner. Nine ballots were completed and nine first-place votes were cast for Davis.
Jon Niese came in second with eight of the nine second-place votes, with the ninth going to third-place winner Josh Thole. Hisanori Takahashi, by rule a rookie to MLB, came in fourth, with Ruben Tejada collecting a single third-place vote to land in fifth overall.
Here are Ike Davis's monthly splits from his rookie season.
If you only paid attention during the season's bookend months you'd think Davis had just finished the best Mets rookie campaign since Darryl Strawberry in 1983. However, you would have missed the middle two-thirds of the season where Davis looked every bit an overmatched 23-year-old with very little upper minor league experience. September/October was significantly more impressive than April as Davis had just 41 plate appearances in his first big league month and thrice as many in his last. June was a moon of zero plate discipline for Davis while August saw increased patience but a thoroughgoing lack of power.
Despite the offensive vicissitudes, Davis consistently displayed superlative defense at first. Yes, he would occasionally fall over a railing (and into the waiting hands of Fernando Tatis) to make a highlight-reel catch, but his real defensive value was accrued not through the odd exceptional catch, but rather through the hundreds of innings of above-average play. His defense passed the sniff test -- that is, he looked good out there -- but the objective measurements also agreed with our casual observations.
Even if we crudely combine these metrics by averaging the three values, Davis emerges as a +8 run defender, which easily places him among the best defensive first basemen in baseball.
If we go by overall value (WAR), Davis ranks ahead of far more expensive first basemen like Derrek Lee, Ryan Howard, and Lyle Overbay, and just behind Mark Teixeira. Davis probably isn't as good as Howard or Teixeira, but he also makes something like 1/40th of their salaries, which gives the Mets a lot of flexibility to spend (or mis-spend) that money elsewhere. For that very reason, a potential trade of Davis for someone like Prince Fielder might not make sense.
The five-year/$125 million question for Davis is: Where does he go from here? He doesn't have a huge body of high-level professional experience to draw from, and knowing what we do about one-year big league anomalies makes projecting Davis's future a bit of a fool's errand. He was never a can't-miss prospect and the fact that he's already at first base -- a position where offense is historically easy to come by -- gives him less margin for error than a similar hitter at shortstop or in center field.
Davis's glovework will help him, no doubt, as will his all-fields approach at the plate that will prevent defenses from loading up on the right side -- as they do with Howard and others -- to mitigate the strengths of a pull hitter. Here is Davis's spray chart this season, courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com:
Interestingly, while Davis did spread the ball around evenly, almost all of his home runs went to right field and the overall ratio of hits to outs was much higher to right than to left. He still picked up plenty of hits to left field, but he also popped out and flied out harmlessly to that field far more often than he did to right. I have no idea what this portends for Davis's future. Perhaps his propensity to hit balls all over the field forces the outfield to play straight up, thus increasing the likelihood that the balls he he does pull -- and hits harder, in most cases -- will fall in for hits.
At all events, 2010 was a productive rookie season for Ike Davis and there are certainly enough reasons here for the Mets to be optimistic about his future.
Here are the final point totals, with points awarded on a 3-2-1 scale for 1st-2nd-3rd place.
Here are the ballots.
|Alex||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Hisanori Takahashi|
|Eno||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Josh Thole|
|Eric||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Hisanori Takahashi|
|James||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Hisanori Takahashi|
|Joe||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Josh Thole|
|Mark||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Josh Thole|
|Matthew||Ike Davis||Josh Thole||Ruben Tejada|
|Rob||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Josh Thole|
|Sam||Ike Davis||Jon Niese||Hisanori Takahashi|