Jim Baumbach is an investigative / enterprise sports reporter for Newsday. A Long Island native, he started working
Have you seen what Ike Davis has done lately? Not much, actually.
The Pirates first baseman is mired in one of those deep slumps -- hitting .182 since June 1 -- that the Mets and their fans know all too much about.
Meanwhile, in the last few weeks Lucas Duda has quietly morphed into the power-hitting, on-base machine that this Mets front office had long projected him to become.
Three months have passed since the Mets officially chose Duda to be their first baseman and dealt Davis to Pittsburgh, and the early returns show they got this one right.
Considering how maligned the front office has been about some of their player decisions, that this one is working out as they hoped is no small coup.
Imagine if it was Davis, as opposed to Duda, who entered Wednesday night's game on pace for 23 home runs and 82 RBIs. Or picture if it was Davis, and not Duda, with the .912 OPS against righthanded pitching. That ranks 15th in the majors coming into Wednesday night's game.
If Davis had been posting Duda's numbers in Pittsburgh, no doubt general manager Sandy Alderson would be hearing all about his botched choice, just like his decision to pass on Nelson Cruz last offseason remains a sore spot with a fan base tired of waiting for next year.
Davis entered Wednesday night's Pirates game in St. Louis hitting .240 with an on-base percentage (.358) that's greater than his slugging percentage (.351). He had hit only four home runs in 201 at-bats with the Pirates.
While Davis has struggled, Duda has gotten only better since he won the competition. He won't make a correlation, as he's averse to saying anything that might create a headline.
"It may seem pretty elementary, but I've just tried to swing at more strikes," he told Newsday's Will Sammon the other day.
But his teammates believe his confidence was bolstered when he was given the job.
"Of course it's a great boost to know you're the guy they want," Curtis Granderson said. "It allowed him to go out there and enjoy his time."
Where Duda has been most impressive offensively is against righthanded pitchers, against whom he has a slash line of .282 /.376 /.536 in 255 plate appearances.
"He's a big individual, so he definitely fits the mold of a power hitter," Granderson said. "He's a guy that can definitely drive the baseball with the best of them."
Terry Collins has even spoken often about wanting to give Duda more at-bats against lefthanders to build his confidence, because the manager believes Duda can be an all-around slugger, but why mess with what's already a good thing?
Collins should continue platooning Duda with Eric Campbell, who has hit lefthanders well, and suddenly the Mets have the makings of an impressive two-headed first baseman.
It all starts with Duda, who continued his hot streak in the first inning Wednesday night against Atlanta righthander Ervin Santana. With two outs and Daniel Murphy on second, Duda scorched a liner to rightfield on a 1-and-0 pitch -- a pitch in the strike zone -- for an RBI single.
That was precisely the type of clutch situation that Duda had a reputation for failing to come through in, but not anymore. This season he has a 1.027 OPS in 89 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
"He does a lot of good things in terms of waiting to get the pitch he wants," Granderson said, "and when he does get it he's able to do something with it."