Mailbag: Ike Davis, Outfielder and Other Bad Ideas

Alex writes:

I am surprised we have not heard any rumblings about possibly moving Ike Davis to the OF, particularly RF. I understand that he is a very good defensive 1B and that he may not match that defensive value in RF but he did play both positions in college as well as while in the minors, and reports when he was drafted had him throwing 90 off a mound so his arm should work fine there. The reasoning for moving him would be that for the most part, and particularly at this moment in MLB history, it is way easier to acquire around 30 HR at 1B then it is in the OF. Of course, Murphy could then move to 1st if they wanted to add a 2B or SS instead. Not saying this is what should be done but I am surprised I have not heard it as an option at all. – Alex

[sny-editorial userid="16692447"]

You haven’t heard any rumblings about moving Ike Davis to rightfield because it’s a really bad idea. Ike Davis belongs at first. It’s really that simple.

As Alex points out, Ike Davis is a solid defensive first baseman. Since 2010, his 5.4 UZR/150 is good enough for sixth among all active first basemen, behind Adrian Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, James Loney, Mark Teixeira and Joey Votto. I used UZR/150, a rate based stat, to avoid the problem of accounting for Davis’ abbreviated 2011 season.

There is no reason to think he could play a Major League caliber right field. In fact, there is a big reason to think he cannot: he’s slow. Very slow. Mets fans who have watched Davis run should know this, but there’s also a useful measure of player speed, the Bill James creation cleverly titled “speed score.”  For reference, since 2010, Carlos Gomez, Carl Crawford and Brett Gardner lead baseball with speed scores of 8.3, 8.3 and 8.1. Davis has a speed score of 2.2, or 207th out of 230 qualified Major Leaguers, and below Miguel Cabrera and his 2.3 speed.  His peers with 2.2 speed scores are Carlos Quentin, Victor Martinez, Miguel Monter and Jose Lopez. Quentin, the only outfielder of the group is a ghastly defender: – 39.8 UZR over his career and -45 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) with a -10.4 UZR/150.

The other parts of the plan do not make any more sense. Daniel Murphy is a little bit above league average as a hitter with a career .292/.339/.427 line and a 108 wRC+ (where 100 is league average). He’s coming off a classic Murphy year in which he hit .291/.332/.403 with a 101 wRC+. That kind of production has value at second base, where by rate, he was the 9th-best offensive player at the position this year. (Even though he appeared to look better at second by the end of 2012, Murphy gives away a whole bunch of that value away defensively; he was -11 by DRS  and -9 by UZR.) However, Murphy’s bat is just not viable at first. By wRC+ his 101 of 2012 would have been good enough for 20th in the game.

And of course, then the Mets would need to add a second baseman which is no easy task.

So, yeah, this is a bad idea coupled with a bad idea.

[/sny-editorial]

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