Ike Davis demoted amid Mets' latest slide
Two weeks ago, Ike Davis staved off a demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas by snapping out of a 2-for-44 slump with a pair of hits against the Braves, including a game-winning two-run single in the eighth inning. On Sunday, the axe finally fell. Davis was one of three players optioned to Las Vegas — along with outfielder Mike Baxter and reliever Robert Carson — after the Mets' 8-4 loss to the Marlins, their sixth in seven games.
Not that it will have any impact on the Mets' overall outcome, but the move was overdue, as Davis' results had failed to improve substantially since that two-hit night back on May 26. The 26-year-old first baseman went just 6-for-34 with a pair of walks, a homer and 12 strikeouts since then, leaving him with a .161/.242/.258 line. Among players qualified for the batting title, only B.J. Upton (.158) has a lower batting average, and only J.P. Arencibia (.240) and Jeff Keppinger (.234) have lower on-base percentages; nobody has a lower slugging percentage, an embarrassing stat for a player whose power is his calling card. Additionally, Davis is fourth in the NL in strikeout rate at 31.9 percent, and he's been prone to odd defensive lapses as well.
While the Mets spent the weekend losing a six hour, 25-minute, 20-inning game on Saturday and a three hour, 35 minute, 10-inning games on Sunday — mustering a total of five runs in the process — Davis spent a fair share of his time riding the pine, in part due to his utter ineptitude (.157/.189/.235 in 53 plate appearances) against lefties. Set to face lefty Mike Dunn with two outs and men on first and second in the eighth inning on Saturday, he was pulled by manager Terry Collins in favor of righty Justin Turner, who flied out to end the inning once Marlins manager Mike Redmond replaced Dunn with righty Ryan Webb, and wound up playing the remaining 12 innings. In the ninth inning on Sunday, with one out, a man on first and Dunn again on the mound, Collins again forced a switch, calling upon Turner as Redmond went to righty Chad Qualls; Turner struck out, then finished up at first base.
This is the second year in a row the Mets have been forced to confront the possibility of demoting Davis. Slow to come back from a left ankle injury that limited him to 36 games in 2011, and weakened by a spring bout of Valley Fever, he hit just .170/.228/.296 with five homers in the first two months of the 2012 season. He rebounded in impressive fashion, batting .253/.341/.536 with 27 homers the rest of the way.
The Mets hoped Davis could similarly dig himself out this time around, but tinkering with his swing while the team struggled proved futile. Two weeks ago, Terry Collins told reporters that Davis has major flaws in his swing that need to be corrected, but added, "If you start to remake his swing, you can’t do it here because you don’t have the time.'" General manager Sandy Alderson reiterated that stance Sunday, and suggested that Davis was exacerbating his struggles by listening to advice from too many people. From the Newark Star-Ledger's Mike Vorkunov:
"I just felt that at some point we've to get him out of here. Hopefully he'll be back in a short period of time. But he needs to go there. He needs to be able to play every day. He needs to be able to work on his swing without worrying, necessarily, the outcome."
...Alderson hoped the move would let Davis regain his confidence and narrow the stream of voices as to how he could rehabilitate his play. However, he would not and said he could not comment on how much fixing Davis' swing needs.
"I'm not a swing doctor," Alderson said. "We'll change the environment and see what happens."
Alderson didn't immediately announce corresponding moves to the players optioned, so it's not clear exactly which direction the Mets will go to fill the first base slot. Via Newsday's Marc Carig, Lucas Duda, who filled in for Davis after his injury in 2011, isn't an option, likely because the Mets lack productive outfielders to fill his slot; the demotion of Baxter (.212/.333/.282) came a day after they designated Rick Ankiel for assignment. Second baseman Daniel Murphy, who has 150 career starts at first, could slide over while Turner (.291/.326/.360) and lefty Jordany Valdespin (.222/.293/.378) man the keystone. Turner, who has 17 starts at first, could figure into the mix at first, though there's no obvious platoon match with righties Josh Satin and Zack Lutz, two organizational players who could be recalled from Las Vegas, where they've been covering first base. The 28-year-old Satin is hitting .306/.421/.491 with nine homers in 259 plate appearances, while the 27-year-old Lutz, who has seen more time at third base than at first, is hitting .277/.360/.419 with four homers in 172 PA, numbers that aren't so impressive given that the team plays in one of the minors' most hitter-friendly parks.
[Update: Satin is indeed one of the players being promoted, along with outfielder Collin Cowgill and pitcher Josh Edgin.] However it shakes out, the Mets (23-35) have to hope the shakeup brings some life to a struggling offense that ranks just 11th in the league in scoring at 3.93 runs per game. They're dead last in batting average (.226), third-to-last in on-base percentage (.294) and second-to-last in slugging percentage (.369). As if that's not bad enough, they're now 3-8 against the Marlins, a team that has only won 10 of 51 other games against the rest of the majors, and they've now been swept on back-to-back weekends. While they're still seven games ahead of the Marlins in the NL East standings, this is as close to rock bottom as the Mets care to get.