Ike Davis was batting .136 and the Mets were facing lefthander Cliff Lee. The decision seemed easy enough for Mets manager Terry Collins: Keep the lefthanded-hitting Davis on the bench.
The decision to hold Davis out of Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to the Phillies continued a trend started last September when the Mets often benched Davis when there was a lefty on the mound.
On the surface, it makes sense. Davis looks like a platoon bat, entering Friday with an .845 career on-base plus slugging percentage against righties and struggling to a .641 mark against lefties. An OPS below .650 is generally considered terrible.
But the numbers may be misleading. Although Davis certainly has struggled hitting lefties, with a .214 batting average, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been effective against them.
From 2010, when Davis entered the majors, until 2012, the overall major-league OPS against lefties was .713 -- but that number dropped to .653 for lefthanded hitters, making Davis about average for his handedness. His true value, however, comes in his plate discipline and power.
The overall MLB walk rate against lefties was 8.6 percent from 2010-12 and batters posted an isolated power of .145. Isolated power (ISO) is an advanced stat that measures only a player's extra-base hits, taking singles out of the equation and thus neutralizing the largely unreliable batting average. Davis has an 8-percent walk rate against lefties and an above-average .150 career ISO.
Those numbers aren’t some distant remnant of a strong rookie streak or some fluke throughout an uneven MLB career.
For the last example of Davis’ power against lefthanded pitchers, look back less than two weeks to April 3, the Mets’ second game of this season, when Davis hit the third pitch of his at-bat against southpaw starter Clayton Richard to deep right-center for a two-run homer.
It was a rare aggressive game for Davis, who saw only seven pitches -- a huge aberration. Davis has seen an average of 3.97 pitches per plate appearances during his career, above the 3.82 MLB average. This season, he’s raised that number to 4.11, further illustrating the patience that makes him a vital cog in the Mets’ attack.
His platoon splits likely would look even better if his batting average weren’t muted by his home ballpark. Davis hits .198 against lefties at home and .233 on the road.
So Davis sat Tuesday as the Mets flailed and failed against Lee. While Davis rode the bench, Lucas Duda still manned his spot in leftfield.
Also a lefthanded hitter, Duda had a "superior" .673 OPS against lefties and hit .246 against them.
But batting average can be a fickle mistress, and when the hits don’t fall in for Duda, he has little to fall back on. He walks only 5.3 percent of the time against lefties and has only a .129 ISO against them.
Justin Turner and Duda totaled two harmless singles, scored zero runs and drove in just as few.
Meanwhile, Davis, who hit 32 home runs last season and could be a hidden gem against lefties, sat on the bench, remaining undiscovered.