On May 10 last season, Ike Davis collided with David Wright. Davis limped back to his position, hoping to stay in the game. The initial diagnosis was that he had a calf strain.
Then he was diagnosed with a left-ankle sprain and a bone bruise, and he was expected back in a couple of weeks.
Then he was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise, which is the same as above, but after a discussion on Foucault in a smokey dorm room.
Then his foot never left the walking boot. He was supposed to be out for three weeks; he kept the boot on for months.
Then there were rumors of microfracture surgery, a parade of ankle specialists, and multiple cortisone shots.
Later he was diagnosed with Valley Fever, which doesn't really apply to the timeline of his bum ankle, but it seems relevant as way to make you wonder which wife of a Greek god he slept with.
The point is that Ike Davis had a lost year to trump all lost years. He started off his 2010 looking like he might enjoy a breakout season, and he ended it as a piece of Mets-related symbolism. There was good news buried up there, though. He was rumored to need microfracture surgery, but he didn't. He recovered without surgery, and he had an encouraging spring, hitting four home runs and playing in 20 games -- as many as most of the Mets' starters. He was back on track.
And the track was leading off a cliff as a Carl Stalling soundtrack played in the background. Davis has been terrible -- one of the worst hitters in baseball. Albert Pujols is asking what in the hell is wrong with Ike Davis.
The first inclination is to check the usual indicators. Davis' batting average on balls put in play is .203 -- among the worst in either league. Well, there you have it. Case solved. With a little better luck, Davis will be back to the franchise cornerstone he was supposed to be.
Except that isn't the whole story. Batters have a lot more control over their batting average on balls in play than pitchers do. Davis's walk rate is way down. His strikeout rate is up. And his ground-ball rate is almost 2:1. He's pounding the ball into the ground more than he ever has. You knew something was off by looking at a .168/.225/.274 line. The walks, the contact rate, and the grounders all give you an idea that something might be wrong other than poor luck, as do his numbers over at FanGraphs. He's swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone and missing more pitches in the strike zone. That's a pretty brutal combination.
But this isn't an article purporting to fix Davis, or at least one that tells you what's wrong. The important stat up there is plate appearances: 102. Here's how one of those started:
Here's how it ended:
So that's one percent of his season that was mercilessly pulled from him from an umpire who was tired of watching a doubleheader. Add in a couple of hard-hit outs, some pitchers who guessed right and picked the exact right pitch to fool Ike Davis at that particular moment, and ground balls that refuse to find holes, and you can see how the bad luck can add up early in the season. That isn't to say that Davis isn't struggling, or that he isn't broken. He might be. We just don't know everything yet.
And we probably won't for a few months still. But as the season progresses -- and as the rest of the Mets team hits better than most of us expected -- Davis' struggles will become more and more noticeable. No player can keep hitting this poorly without the team exploring some drastic options.
Think about a young player you're high on right now. Now project what he'll be doing in a year. Then think of Ike Davis and what you thought of him a year ago. Baseball, man. Baseball.