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J.D. Davis is crushing the ball
The Mets shouldn't worry about Davis' slow start. They should make him the everyday DH.
J.D. Davis is still an excellent hitter.
Look, I know it’s easy to distrust me on this, since I’m J.D. Davis’ biggest fan and I wrote “J.D. Davis is a professional hitter” on my graduation cap and named my 2019 season recap post after him, and all that. But just because I’m a big fan of J.D. Davis doesn’t mean I’m not also correct to say that he can still mash. It’s sort of like how even if someone thinks that Marjorie Taylor Greene is a terrible person, they can also be correct that she’s a constitutionally illiterate moron (the “unfollow” button is in the settings section if you’d like to show yourself out).
Let’s get straight to it. Here are some statistics from MLB’s Baseball Savant:
J.D. Davis is second in MLB in xWOBA (Expected Weighted On-Base Average), behind only Mike Trout
J.D. Davis is 6th in MLB with a .344 Expected Batting Average
J.D. Davis is 9th in all of baseball with a .662 Expected Slugging Percentage
In 2019, J.D. Davis crashed into the wall while making a play in left field, leading to the following exchange after Pete Alonso ran all the way from first base out to deep left to check on him (not strictly from Baseball Savant, but I couldn’t resist):
Davis: “What are you doing out here?”
Alonso: “I gotta check on the Sun Bear.”
Davis: “You’re ridiculous. Go back to first.”
What’s happening could not be simpler: Davis is mashing the ball (as he always has) but has run into bad luck so far. In a 54-plate-appearance sample size, that’s abundantly possible. Francisco Lindor ran into bad luck for the entirety of 2021. It happens. There was a lot of chatter about the baseball a few days ago after Davis absolutely barreled a ball (106.6 mph exit velocity; 23-degree launch angle), only to have it fall short of the fence. But those barrels will turn into hits – or homers – eventually.
When you hit the ball as hard as Davis has, eventually the hits will come. So the Mets are wasting a big bat if Davis stays on the bench.
Davis not getting regular at-bats is especially egregious now that the National League has adoped the DH. That was supposed to be his one and only obstacle! Even Davis’ harshest critics – and you absolutely know who you are – acknowledged that he could hit. The problem was always that he didn’t have a true defensive position, that the only place he could play without hurting the team was at 1st, which would have taken Pete Alonso’s bat out of the lineup. But now there’s the DH, and in Davis, the Mets have the perfect one: a guy who’s not a great defender, but who tears the cover off the ball on offense.
Put it this way – if Davis isn’t DHing, who is? Dom Smith? Dom’s stats – .190/.273/.241 – aren’t great, and his expected stats – .233 batting average, .378 slugging percentage – aren’t great either. Beyond Dom, there really aren’t any names that come up. Luis Guillorme should get playing time here and there at shortstop, which could sometimes move Francisco Lindor to DH; Travis Jankowski could also start in the outfield occasionally, which could move Nimmo or Marte to DH. But there quite simply aren’t any lineup configurations in which the Mets’ offense without Davis is better than the offense with him in it.
Especially now that Robinson Canó has left the building, Davis figures to get fairly regular playing time at DH. So it’s worth remembering that this is a good thing, because Davis is a really good hitter. You’d think his stats with the Mets from 2019 to 2021 (.288/.373/.472, while playing hurt for most of 2021) would be enough to make that the consensus, but it hasn’t so far. Which is fine; I’ll be the consensus-builder.
Davis’ slow start is nothing to worry about. He’s mashing, and the hits will come sooner or later. His defense is nothing to worry about now that the DH has come to the National League; he’s by far the Mets’ best candidate to be the everyday DH. The Mets seem to realize this, which is encouraging. The old regime cast off Travis d’Arnaud after a few bad at-bats coming off Tommy John surgery. Under the old regime, Jeff McNeil probably would have been gone following his down year in 2021. Under the old regime, Robinson Canó would still be a Met for another year and a half. J.D. Davis probably would have been traded for, I don’t know, Humberto Castellanos and Oliver Pérez. But we’re smarter than that now. And we have money.
It's very simple. In J.D. Davis, the Mets have an excellent hitter. All they need to do is let him hit.