While Jose Reyes stole today's headlines with his exuberant display from last night's game, Ike Davis quietly continued his hot start to the 2011 season. Davis extended his hitting streak to nine games with two base hits yesterday, boosting his slash line to an impressive .325/.424./.595 over the first 24 games of the season.
Coupling his offensive output with his steady defense at first base, one should not comprehend where the Mets would find themselves in the standings without Davis if one likes to avoid prolonged bouts of depression. That said, it's a fair question to ask how much of it the Mets can count on going forward, and whether we need to reset the bar for success with our homegrown first baseman.It's not terribly difficult to poke holes in Davis's fast start in 2011. Whether you choose to point your finger at small sample sizes, a ridiculously high .403 BAPIP, or a selfish Carlos Beltran, you would remain wise to temper your expectations about Davis going forward. Sure, he hit that 465-foot blast the other day. I once saw Matt Franco hit a pinch-hit home run off the back bullpen wall at Shea Stadium. So what's your point?
Davis does appear to benefit from a more patient approach at the plate this season, though. According to FanGraphs, Davis is more selective at the plate with pitches outside the strike zone, swinging less (20.5% O-Swing in 2011, as compared to 27.3% in 2010) and making more contact (65.0% O-Contact in 2011, as compared to 60.1% in 2010). If you want to improve plate discipline, refraining from swinging at balls outside the strike zone is always a good start.
That plate discipline may also come about from Davis's restraint from chasing off-speed pitches. He's especially being more selective with curveballs and sliders hurled his way, swinging and missing at each offering at ratios of 5.2% and 13.4% respectively compared to last season. Better pitch recognition by Davis might explain why Davis is hitting more line drives than ground balls (21.2% LD% to 39.4% GB% in 2011, as compared to 16.4% to 43.1% last season). That could ease his offensive regression once his unsustainable BAPIP starts to normalize.
And let's not forget that Davis isn't the only one swinging a fine bat for the Mets this season. Beltran is hitting. Reyes is hitting. Jason Bay looks sharp so far. Davis, who leads the team with 1.1 WAR and RBIs with 18, might also benefit from the hitters in front of him, who are keeping the pressure on the pitcher and maintaining solid leverage situations for the hitter.
It's early. Let's not go drawing any major conclusions about Davis quite yet. But don't be disheartened that he eventually has to fall back to Earth once the Mets' current hot streak cools off. He could regress to a new normal, which may exceed and improve on what we expected from our first baseman on Opening Day.
If we could just see him reach 25 HRs this season...