It’s March 31, 2014 and the Pirates Opening Day first-baseman is a man who hit .205 with a .660 OPS in 2013.
Well, the good news is that it is always a bad idea to base expectations for a player’s future performance solely upon what he did in the previous season. For instance, if the Pirates had made a judgment based entirely on the 2011 season, their third-baseman would now be somebody other than Pedro Alvarez, who, you may remember, hit 36 home runs in the most recently concluded season. (And, lest ye forget, the now-legendary Marlon Byrd hit .210 with a .488 OPS in 2012.)
In 2011, Alvarez’s batting line was .191/.272/.289 — .561 OPS. That’s bad. That’s real bad. In fact, it is far worse than the .205/.326/.334 — .660 OPS that was posted in 2013 by New York Met first-baseman Ike Davis.
There are Pirate fans who are disturbed by the reports that their team has interest in trading for Davis and putting him in a platoon with Gaby Sanchez at first-base. Those fans are focused primarily on Davis’ dreadful 2013 batting line. That’s a mistake.
Ike Davis, in 2014, is very likely to do just what Pedro Alvarez did in 2012. Bounce back. In a Big Way!
Davis and Alvarez were both selected in the first round of the 2008 draft, at age 21, and both made their major league debut in 2010.
In his rookie season of 2010, Davis hit 19 home runs in 601 plate appearances and had a .791 OPS. Alvarez, in his rookie season – that same year – hit 16 home runs in 386 plate appearances and had a .787 OPS.
The following season, Alvarez had a complete power outage, hitting only 4 home runs in 262 plate appearances. But there were indications that he would bounce back. His 2011 walk and strikeout rates were almost identical to his 2010 numbers and his BABIP fell 70 points in 2011.
Alvarez’s 2011 power loss was the big problem, but the BB and K rates suggested it would return. And that, along with a normalized BABIP, would bring his batting average and on-base percentage back to an acceptable level.
Alvarez was likely to bounce back in 2012 (he hit .244/.317/.467 — .784 OPS that year) and the same indications are there for Davis in 2014.
Davis’ 2013 problems – like Alvarez’s 2011 problems – look to have been a power loss and a below average BABIP. And, remember, Davis’ troubled 2013 was not nearly as disturbed as Alvarez’s dreadful 2011. Davis had a .660 OPS. Alvarez’s was .561.
Lost in the rubble of Davis’ 2013 is the sabermetrically scintillating fact that his walk rate spiked to an astounding 15.1 % and his K rate only rose slightly to 26.8%. That is a strong indication that Davis’ power is going to come back – and it doesn’t have as far too travel as Alvarez’s did after the 2011 season. Davis homered once every 42 plate appearances last season. In 2011, Alvarez homered once every 66 plate appearances.
Another factor in Davis favor – as a Pirate – would be that Gaby Sanchez will take care of the lefties for him. The Pirates need Davis to hit right-handers and he has done that at an .827 OPS clip for his career. That’s not bad – especially when one considers that Pedro Alvarez’s career OPS against right-handers is .798.
As I wrote above, Davis and Alvarez were both selected in the first round of the 2008 draft, at the age of 21, and both made their MLB debut in 2010. Here is a comparison of some of their key career numbers:
Davis / Alvarez
PA: 1711 / 1848
BA: .242 / .235
OBP: .334 / .306
SLG: .434 / .443
OPS: .768 / .749
wOBA: .334 / .324
PA/HR: 25.5 / 21.5
BB%: 12.1% / 9.0%
K%: 24% / 30.6%
BABIP: .287 / .299
A reasonable expectation (Projection) for Davis’ 2014 batting line is .228/.337/.452 — .789 OPS, with 20 HR in 390 plate appearances. Against RHP, I project a batting line of .235/.364/.471 — .835 OPS. That kind of production is worth giving up Jeff Locke, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, or Andrew Lambo – or some combination of those players. And maybe even Nick Kingham!
If the Pirates don’t make the mistake of projecting Ike Davis’ future performance based solely upon what he did last season, they could end up with Pedro Alvarez at 3B and a Pedro Alvarez clone at 1B – for the next three years.