Now that Ike Davis is in the mix for the Pittsburgh Pirates, it looks like the first base position is settled, at least for the next few years. There is the possibility that Davis won’t work out. His career numbers against right-handers are strong, but he hasn’t always played up to those numbers, in part due to injuries. If he can play up to those numbers, and stay healthy, then he could pair nicely with Gaby Sanchez, giving the Pirates some solid production from the first base position.
I wanted to get an idea of what the Ike Davis/Gaby Sanchez platoon was capable of, so I looked at a season projection from each player, using the numbers detailed below.
In his career, Sanchez has an .898 OPS against left-handers over 575 plate appearances. He has a .701 OPS against right-handers in 1439 career plate appearances. Last year, Sanchez got 194 plate appearances against right-handers, and 126 against left-handers. A big reason for the increase against right-handers was that Garrett Jones was playing some right field during the season, making Sanchez an everyday first baseman at times. That won’t be the case this year now that Davis is in the mix.
It’s not very scientific, but I cut the plate appearances in half for Sanchez against right-handers, giving him a projected 126 plate appearances against lefties, and 97 against right-handers this year. I then applied his career ratios to those numbers, getting his overall production from the platoon, which I will summarize below.
Davis has an .828 OPS against right-handers in his career in 1296 plate appearances. He struggles against lefties, with a .598 plate appearance. For this purpose, I gave him the plate appearances that Jones had last year, which was 417 against right-handers and 23 against lefties. Overall, when you consider the plate appearances from Sanchez above, combined with these from Davis, you come up with 663 plate appearances, which is three more than the first base position had last year.
Just like with Sanchez, I applied the career ratios for Davis to these plate appearance numbers. Then I combined the results from each player to get the totals below.
When you combined the above plate appearances and production for each player, you ended up with a .260/.355/.460 line over a full season from the first base platoon of Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez. That is based on their career platoon splits, and the playing time breakdown at first base last year.
Putting this in perspective, that .815 OPS would have ranked 12th in baseball last year among 25 qualified first basemen.
Where Could They Improve?
I’m not going to point out where these two could fail to reach these projections, because the analysis is as simple as “playing below their career numbers”. In the case with Davis, he is injury prone, so you could add the fact that his injury risk could prevent him from reaching these numbers.
But where could these two improve on the above line, which is based on their career numbers?
In Sanchez’s case, he had a .987 OPS against left-handers last year. So far this year he has an OPS over 1.000, in a limited sample size. Just using his 2013 splits against lefties, rather than his career splits, you get a pretty nice bump. That increased production from Sanchez (going from an .898 OPS to a .987 OPS) takes the overall platoon to an .831 OPS. That would have been good enough for tenth best among the 25 qualified first basemen last year. Or, to put it in perspective, that’s what Allen Craig did for the Cardinals.
Davis had a down year last year against right-handers, with a .727 OPS. He was also dealing with an oblique injury, which could have led to the slump. So far this year he has an .850 OPS against right-handers, not counting tonight’s game. In 2012, he had an .868 OPS, which is similar to what we’ve seen so far. Using those 2012 numbers, rather than his career ratios, gives another big boost to the platoon. That version of Davis would take the overall platoon from an .815 OPS to an .841 OPS. That would tie for ninth among first baseman last year, tied with Brandon Belt, and one point behind Mike Napoli.
If you factor in both adjustments at the same time (using the 2013 numbers for Sanchez and the 2012 numbers for Davis), then you get an overall .857 OPS. That would have been good enough for sixth among first basemen last year, just ahead of Adam Lind.
The one thing to consider about this scenario is that, so far, it is playing out. In a limited sample size, Sanchez is playing better than his 2013 numbers against lefties, and considerably better than his career numbers. Likewise, Davis is playing closer to his 2012 numbers than his career numbers, also in a limited sample size. If both of these trends continue, then the Pirates could end up with top ten production from the first base position, bordering on top five production.
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