We like Ike. Are we worried about him?
We projected Project: Duda last in this series and there were a few ways to read the available peripherals. This week, we'll use the same tools to check out Ike Davis even though nobody seems to be worried about Ike Davis.
"I'm not worried about Ike Davis." -- Dave Hudgens, Mets Hitting Coach
And yet, this is a man that did not hit a home run in his debut professional history. Is his power indubitable? What can we say about his coming year if we look at his batted ball distance, angle, and heat maps? What does his hitting coach think about the coming year?
Let's take a look.The heat map for 2010 shows that he likes to pull the ball some.
As a lefty, it looks like he likes it inside. I asked Hudgens about that *slight* hole on the outside corner. "If a pitcher can put it on the outside black every time, he's going to have a good year," he laughed. We agreed that most players have a tough time with it.
Last season didn't provide much new data.
That's what being limited to 149 plate appearances looks like. How's his ankle? "Everything is great," Hudgens affirms.
His batted ball distance graphs tell the story of a slight pull hitter with nice power. If you are worried about his power at all, take solace in the smoothness of his curve.
Even though his ISO in a small 2011 sample was much higher, his batted ball distance stayed about the same. That seems to say that his career power is sustainable. His batted ball angle is also fairly stable, which should mean the same thing:
Ignore that little loop at the end of 2010 and you actually have a hitter with a decent to-all-fields approach. How could he develop more power? By focusing on pulling the ball more -- a positive pull angle would mean he was pulling it to right field, and his career statistics to date suggest that might be a good idea. His ISO to the pull field so far is .339, to center it's a nice .273, but to the opposite field, it's a .111 number.
Still, if he's managed to hit this well for 750 PAs with a balanced approach and a stable batted ball distance, it looks like Ike Davis is in for another good year should his ankle hold up.
But watch Ike Davis swing once and a little seed of doubt might form.
Ike Davis Freezeframes (via noby03)
What about that hitch in his swing? Is that not at all worrisome?
Hudgens admits that Davis has a lot of "timing and movement" in his swing, but asserts that the slugger "gets his hands up in time." It's all well and good -- Hudgens doesn't "mind the hitch if he gets his hands up into the hitting position."
"That hitch is not something you would ever teach a young hitter -- it's more of a natural device -- he's grown up with it and he's used to it. The good thing is that he has the ability to make adjustments -- last year, he choked up a little with two strikes, or a batter on third with less than two outs. Barry Bonds was his favorite hitter growing up -- Arizona State and all -- and Barry had a slight thing in his swing, but we don't know. Number one is -- when the front foot comes down, where are the hands? And Ike's hands are in the hitting position." -- Dave Hudgens
Okay, so the hitch might not be a big deal. Doesn't his swing look long?
"It might be the finish. Ike has a great finish, and great extension, and that might make the swing look long. But he's aggressive with the hands, and I wouldn't call his swing long. Mechanically, he gets the barrel of the bat to the ball." -- Dave Hudgens
Well allright then. It looks like all Davis needs to do this spring training is focus on his rhythm and timing and get as many reps in as he can. Hudgens pointed out that he'll probably get more plate appearances than the average veteran because he didn't play much last year.
Davis "makes adjustments and is motivated -- he wants to be great," as Hudgens glowingly summed up his first baseman. So don't worry about Ike Davis, he'll be just fine.