Saturday, April 19, 2014

Joey's Small Bites: I Liked Ike

I looked up to Ike Davis, sometimes quite literally, as this photo shows.

Hi, everyone.  I'm Joey Beartran, your favorite roving reporter, culinary expert and fan of former Met Ike Davis.  That's right, I said former Met.  As in Ike Davis doesn't work here anymore.  That means we will no longer be treated to reading about Ike's mysterious bout with Valley Fever, nor will we see him play dress-up as a cosplaying cowboy.  Lest we forget, we certainly won't be seeing his Big Unit around Citi Field either.  (And please don't click on the words "Big Unit" unless you're over 18.  The last thing I want is people picketing outside the chicken nacho stand at Citi Field because I'm posting NSFW photos.  When I want my chicken nachos, I'd rather not have to wait any longer than I have to.  Thanks.)

After months of speculation, Ike Davis has finally been traded.  The former Mets first baseman will now be handling those duties in Steel City, with right-handed relief pitcher Zack Thornton and a player to be named later coming to New York from Pittsburgh.

This could end up being a great trade for the Mets, as Davis had hit just .219 since the beginning of the 2012 season.  But his Kingman-esque batting average didn't produce Kingman-esque power after the second half of the 2012 campaign, as Davis managed just ten homers in 407 plate appearances since the start of the 2013 season.

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be 26-year-old Thornton has been a strikeout machine in the Pirates' minor league system, fanning 285 batters in 252⅓ innings (an average of 10.2 K/9 IP).  Thornton has also posted a 20-9 record with 26 saves, a 3.03 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in parts of five professional seasons.  But his stock has really risen since the start of the 2013 season.  Since the beginning of last year, Thornton is the proud owner of a 2.50 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and has struck out 98 batters in 82⅔ innings.  Most impressive is his impeccable control, as Thornton has walked just 13 batters in those 82⅔ innings, giving him a phenomenal 1.4 BB/9 IP ratio and an even more eye-popping 7.5 K/BB ratio.

Let's put it this way.  Rafael Montero, who's the crown jewel in the Mets' minor league system when it comes to possessing great control and an exceptional ability to strike hitters out, has averaged 1.8 walks per nine innings pitched and has struck out 4.8 batters for every walk he's issued.  You didn't have to take Jaime Escalante's calculus class to figure out that compared to Montero, Thornton possesses better control and is more likely to strike out an opposing hitter than walk him.

No one liked Ike Davis more than I did.  When he was on, he hit some long home runs.  In fact, his final home run as a Met was a walk-off grand slam.  It was just the seventh game-ending salami in franchise history and the third that instantly turned a deficit into an unexpected victory.  But those home runs were getting spaced out a little too much, and as a result, fans were getting spaced out waiting for those big hits to come.  Davis needed a change in order to produce and the Mets needed to continue stockpiling young pitchers, either to cultivate them into a dominant force or to use them as trade bait for better hitters.

In trading Ike Davis, the Mets have taken a dive on another pitching prospect named Zack, hoping Thornton turns out to be a good melon.  Meanwhile, Davis - the one-time future for the Mets at first base - is hoping that a trip back to school in Pittsburgh will give him the education he needs to fulfill that potential.  It's a trade that should eventually benefit both teams.  I just hope it doesn't benefit the Bucs when they're playing the Mets in 2014 and beyond.

"Taking a dive?  Thornton being a good melon?  A trip back to school?  It's like I get no respect around here."

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