Over the next few months, there will be much discussion with regards to the Mets needs, and what they have to do to improve on this 2012 season. In fact, these discussions have probably been going on for about a month now. That’s one of the therapeutic things fans do when their team is in the dumps.
Over the past month, I have seen very emotional fans voice their opinions on certain players in the Mets organization. Very strong opinions. They rant and rave about why the Mets have to keep this player, and why the Mets have to get rid of that player. Most of the time, it is driven by pure emotion, and not really looked at objectively. I try to distance myself from a lot of these discussions, but sometimes even the Mets fan in me has to put in his two cents.
One of the players that comes up in these discussions is Ike Davis. Mets fans wanted this guy shipped off to a minor league team in Alaska a couple of months ago. Rightly so, Ike couldn’t hit water if he fell off a bridge during the first half of the season. He looked lost at times, as he battled through what had to be the worst slump of his entire career. He swung wildly at off speed pitches, and seemed to be very uncomfortable at the plate. At times, it looked as though he was trying to guess what pitch was coming next, rather than seeing the ball and reacting to it, as hitting coaches preach from the time we are children. He was over thinking at the plate, and not trusting his eyes and hands. That is one of the worst things a hitter can do.
I have an old saying when it comes to hitting that goes like this – if you’re over thinking, you’re stinking. Meaning that the hitters mind can be his worst enemy. See ball, hit ball is the motto hitters live by. A hitter’s success is immediately reduced once he starts trying to guess what pitch is coming next. My personal views on breaking out of a slump are simple – don’t give the pitcher the chance to go 0-1 on you as a hitter. I came up with that strategy when I was a young boy, prompting people to give me the nickname first pitch Mitch (which is now my Twitter handle). I never wanted to give the pitcher an advantage. Letting a pitch go by, that may be the best pitch to hit in the at bat, just didn’t seem like a logical thing to do. Rationally thinking, a pitcher is going to assume that you are going to look at the first pitch, so he is going to groove a fastball in order to get ahead in the count. It seemed wrong to let those pitches go by. For hitters in a slump, one of the best things they can do is not let the pitcher get ahead of them. That’s when the dreaded thoughts swirling around in the hitter’s head.
Craig Burley conducted a study in 2004 which backs up my theory. He showed that when a pitcher goes up 0-1 on a hitter, the batting average of the hitters immediately was reduced by about .50. That’s a huge drop off. There are many things at play when a hitter goes into a slump, and most of the time, they have to work out of it themselves. Something could be causing the slump that is so miniscule, that it is nearly impossible to figure out – your hands could be a little too low or high, your stance could be a little too wide or narrow, it really could be anything. It’s ultimately up to the hitter to work it out. There is no secret to breaking out of a slump. But when you’re in a slump, the last thing you want to do is give that pitcher an advantage.
Ike got off to the dreaded slow start this season. That’s one of the toughest things a hitter could overcome. The adjustment of going from hitting in the warm weather in Florida during spring training, to the cold weather in the northeast when the season started in early April, often caused slow starts for me. I can’t tell you that’s what caused Ike’s slump, but the good news is, he tweaked his stance, and is showing signs of life again. He is having a great second half and is on pace to have 30 homeruns, and hit around .230. The average isn’t that spectacular, but seeing he was hitting .158 at one point, that is a great improvement. The power numbers are very, very promising. The best news for Ike is he is once again winning over the fans with his play of late. Ike is looking like he should be a .280/25-30hr guy for years to come. Yes Ike, the future is bright again.