Let's recap the painful part as quickly as possible. Through June 8, 2012, Ike Davis was hitting .158 with a .234 on-base percentage and a .278 slugging percentage, but he remained in the big leagues. This year, he hit a similar .161 with a .242 OBP and a .258 SLG before he was sent to the minors on June 9.
Davis hit .265/.347/.565 with 27 home runs the rest of the season last year over a not-insignificant 100 games. Since being recalled from the minors this season, he's hitting .284/.455/.441 over 38 games. The power's not the same this year, though the .526 SLG since the All-Star break is closer, but he's again showing signs and ability that might make fans giddy.
This isn't some lucky minor leaguer running into some bad pitching. Over the last 30 days—101 plate appearances—Ike Davis has a 184 wRC+. In other words, he has been almost twice as good as the league average hitter over that stretch. In fact, there are only six players with a higher wRC+ over the past month: Jayson Werth, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Will Venable, Aaron Hill, and Justin Upton.
Davis is getting on base at a .475 clip during that stretch, nearly half the times he walks to the plate. Perhaps this is due in part to pitchers learning in the first half that Ike Davis would chase pitches that were not strikes and get himself out. 48.3 percent of the pitches he saw in the first half were in the strike zone, compared to 43.9 percent in the second half. Davis has capitalized on that drop by swinging at only 20.5 percent of pitches out of the zone in the second half, and that's the eighth lowest rate in the majors. That compares to his 28.5 percent in the first half which is still below the 29.6 percent MLB average. Looking at his other plate discipline numbers in the second half, you can see a big jump in contact percentage numbers, both in and out of the zone. By not swinging at the junk, he's able to get into better counts, get better pitches to hit, and hit them.
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What Ike Davis and the Mets need to find out is if he can continue to be selective when the pitchers realize he's stopped lunging at terrible pitches. Perhaps that drop to 43.9 percent of pitches in the zone crossed a threshold that Ike Davis was able to capitalize on, but will it continue when pitchers stop getting into 1-0 holes with first pitches that they expected Davis to swing at? It's a game of inches, and what Ike needs to do to prove himself is to continue to be patient when the pitchers start throwing better pitches in, or closer to, the strike zone.
It's contrary to logic, but what Ike needs to be part of the 2014 Mets is a slump. He needs to run up against some good pitching when he's just not seeing the ball as well and still manage to find a hit or two and a couple of walks. He needs to prove he can slump like a major leaguer and not like the complete black hole he's been during slumps the last two years. Additionally, he needs to break out of that slump in a couple of weeks, rather than a couple of months.
Ike Davis has the talent and skill to hit major league pitching and hit it well. What he needs to find is the ability to adjust on the fly and tweak that ability so he can remain one step ahead of the scouting report on him. It's one thing to know pitchers are going to throw you junk and not swing and quite another to guess when the pitchers are going to throw you junk and not swing.
Davis also needs to hit left-handed pitching better than he has. His .388 OPS against lefties this year is unacceptable for an everyday player. It's a little hard to accurately judge Ike's ability in this regard though, as most of his at-bats against lefties were during the first half when he was just slumping in general. Since his return, Terry Collins has protected him a little bit against lefties, which has led to an extremely small sample size. He doesn't have to destroy lefties like David Wright, but working some walks and getting some extra-base hits would go a long way towards convincing people that he can be a major league starter.
Over the last month or so Ike Davis has been one of the best players in baseball, but he's got a long way to go to prove he deserves the inevitable arbitration raise and a spot on the 2014 Mets. The Mets have other options that they could use at first base, so it's on Davis to prove he can continue to play baseball at this level. There are 37 games left in the season, and he still needs to convince the Mets.