COMMENTARY | The early season struggles of Ike Davis has recently forced New York Mets manager Terry Collins to think about moving him out of the cleanup spot in the order. Lucas Duda (normally hitting sixth) would be the candidate to switch spots with the slumping first baseman. However, Collins has decided to keep the lineup the way it is, instead of mixing it up. I'm usually a fan of lineup consistency, but allowing Duda to hit between David Wright and John Buck could make the Mets' offense even more productive than it already has been.
Having some kind of consistency in a lineup on a nightly basis does help players get into a groove and create team chemistry. Despite that, there will already be slight changes to the Mets' lineup every night due to the mixing and matching of the three outfield spots throughout 2013. With that said, Collins expressed Duda's confidence is higher than ever, and he doesn't want to change anything because he wants to continue getting the current level of production from him.
While I have some respect for what's going through the manager's mind, he still has to try and get the most production he can from this lineup. Having Ike Davis in the heart of the order, who is currently hitting .164/.250/.311, can be a real rally killer. Duda isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball (.250/.446/.604), but he's stayed true to his approach, and hasn't been sacrificing at-bats for the sake of trying to drive in runs. The Mets have been one of the best performing offenses through the first three weeks of the regular season, but who knows how long that will last. If I were Terry Collins, I would be looking for any way possible to prolong the type of production he's seen through New York's first 18 games.
This is certainly not a knock on Davis; even though he's not hitting right now, I have faith he will eventually turn it around. Once he's able to work deeper counts more consistently, he will return to his form from the second half of 2012. There have been too many times I've seen him end an at-bat after only one pitch, or he gets sent back to the dugout following three straight strikes. It seems like he's constantly hitting from behind in the count, and that's what it feels like when you're working through a slump.
Thankfully for New York, John Buck has had an incredible month of April, hitting .277/.300/.631, and is among the league leaders with seven home runs and 22 RBIs. Davis probably could get some credit for Buck's fast start, as he's the one leaving men on base before the veteran catcher brings them home. I'm attributing Ike's inability to consistently work a count toward him feeling pressure to drive in runs. As Daniel Murphy (.395 OBP) and David Wright (.450 OBP) continue to get on base at a high frequency, the pressure to be aggressive early in an at-bat is always there. If Collins flips Duda and Davis, there is a chance some rallies could get extended, and we could see the Mets put even more runs on the board. Also, if Davis gets less RBI chances during his at-bats, it would allow him to be a little more patient, as he would not feel as though he needs to be aggressive earlier in the count.
I understand that Collins doesn't want to mess with his left fielder's confidence (and we all know how delicate Duda can be). However, if I'm in Duda's shoes, I'd feel even more confident in my approach if my manager gave me the opportunity to drive in more runs, not the other way around. There needs to be a time when we really see what Duda is capable of. The organization can envision him being a significant power contributor, so he should be able to handle hitting cleanup until Ike Davis gets himself back on track.
There are two things Sandy Alderson has been stressing since the first day of workouts in Port St. Lucie: taking more pitches (which they have been), and the most productive players will get a chance to play. We've seen this on multiple occasions already, as Jordany Valdespin has played himself into the lineup, and Juan Lagares has been promoted in favor of an ineffective Kirk Nieuwenhuis. So, if we're staying with the second portion of this mantra, Duda should get more RBI chances than Davis right now because he's making the most out of his at-bats.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.
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