I never thought I’d put “Mike Francesa” and “interesting” together in the same sentence but a Mad Dogless Mike had former Mets GM and all-around nincompoop Steve Phillips on his WFAN radio show this afternoon, to talk about Mets rookie 1B Ike Davis. Davis got the call this afternoon and he’ll be debuting at first and hitting 6th for The Mets tonight against The Cubs. What peaked my interest in the exchange was the talk of how On Base Percentage is more greatly appreciated than ever before (“due to Billy Beane and the whole Money Ball phenomena,” said an audibly bitter Phillips) and how the ability to tell a ball from a strike, is “the 6th tool,” to use when evaluating a players skills.
Appreciating the batter’s eye is ancient history to anyone who cares about baseball, let alone has a fantasy team. I don’t really like to play in a league without OBP, since I understand how Batting Average only really tells a small part of the hitter’s story. It feels foolish and inauthentic to simply use AVG, when there are plenty of useful players who may not be hitting, but are still getting on base. Isn’t the object of the game – to not get out? What Francesa and Phillips (and most of the baseball media) fail to acknowledge is that “Moneyball” has nothing to do with OBP in particular. Billy Beane was simply looking to take advantage of market inefficiencies when constructing a team on a limited budget. Now that smart front offices (most with far deeper pockets) have caught on to OBP, “Moneyball” is moving on to the next undervalued facet of the game, defense. I don’t expect these guys to grasp that kind of higher thinking but I thought today’s conversation was a nice start.
One guy who’s playing “Moneyball” right now is Yankees DH Nick Johnson. Johnson is hitting an anorexic .158 on a 6 for 54 drought. His OBP however, is currently .402. Not all together unexpected in such a small sample size, especially when you consider Johnson’s switch back to the AL. If you’d like to see why Johnson is hitting at such a poor clip, you need not look any further than his .217 BABIP. But lets not get crazy now. The old guys just got that OBP was imporant. We don’t want to throw too many numbers at them. Well Francesa brought up Johnson, in regard to the changing perceptions in baseball towards OBP. In spite of the anemic AVG, the New York media is not getting on Johnson, Francesa said, due in large part to the newly found appreciation of OBP. Speak for yourself, but ok, that’s cool. Johnson isn’t in fact terrible because his AVG currently is. Of course, Francesa immediately undid any good will he may have garnered from me, by comparing Davis to Jason Heyward, since both display a good eye (Davis BB 11.2% of the time in 233 AA PA last season) and Heyward’s probably the only rookie he can name. Welcome to New York, no pressure kid.
I think Davis projects fairly similarly to Johnson. Perhaps he doesn’t have as great a command of the plate as Johnson, but he projects a little more pop. I’m not sure about his glove, but Davis did look like The Mets best 1B back in Spring Training. That’s not saying a great deal, but it might be enough for Jerry Manual to keep his job for a couple of weeks, if Davis provides a spark. Davis is worth a flyer in deep leagues and could make an impact in 12 team leagues, particularly if you use OBP.
*Note: I think the comparison that Keith Hernandez made during last night’s game was perhaps more accurate. John Olerud’s rookie season, compare somewhat favorably to Davis’ minor league numbers. It’s tough judge Davis on his past as he suffered from a strained oblique muscle last season, which he blames for sapping his power.
Mike Axisa, over at Fangraphs disagrees, point to Adam LaRoche as a better comparison. What do you think?
Davis went 2-4 with an RBI in his first game. Nice first game!
Good luck Ike. You’re going to need it.