First Pitch: How Good Could the Ike Davis/Gaby Sanchez Platoon Be?

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.

Gaby Sanchez

In his career, Sanchez has an .898 OPS against left-handers over 575 plate appearances. ┬áHe 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.

Ike Davis

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.

The Platoon

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.

Links and Notes

**Ike Davis Looks Forward to Fresh Start With the Pirates

**Travis Ishikawa Designated For Assignment to Make Room for Ike Davis

**Chris Stewart Activated From the Disabled List, Tony Sanchez Optioned

**Prospect Watch: Chad Kuhl Throws Six Shutout Innings

**Minor League Schedule: Brigham Goes For Indianapolis on Light Sunday

**Draft Prospect Watch: Trea Turner Homers Twice

**Prospect Highlights: Willy Garcia Shows Off Arm, Hanson Legs Out Triple, Allie Homer

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • swampirate

    I have been hoping for this trade to happen! I like it very much. The Pirates are very close to being set for years. The next shoe to drop is Polanco arriving. Once that happens and the subsequent fallout then there wont be much change in the Pirates lineup as far as position players go for a few seasons (barring injury). The only changes will be in the bullpen and rotaton with the infusion of the young arms. What an amazing time to be a pirates fan!

    • Nick Rexilius

      I agree mostly, except for that if Hanson lives up to his potential, he could shake up the lineup a little bit

  • emjayinTN

    Loved the fact that Ike made it a point to be at the field less than 24 hours after the trade – that speaks volumes about his enthusiasm to get a chance with the Pirates. Getting 2 hits and a walk in his first game won’t hurt his popularity either. He did strike out once against Duke, a LHP, but that means 7W/5K so far in about 30 AB’s. We did improve the offense with this move, but we need to find a way to win without having to score in double figures.

  • KauaiCoffee

    Pirates should sign Greg Polanco to an 8-year contract (maybe $45 million), and then sign Stephen Drew after the rule 4 draft. The only problems then would be the regressing bullpen and the marginal starting pitching.

  • skliesen

    Don’t forget the benefit Davis will bring to Alvarez’s game by taking over the cleanup position and allowing him to move back to the #6 hole where he’s a clearly better hitter.

  • johndw28

    I had been hoping for Ike Davis for months- just hope the PTBNL isn’t too steep. But man this pitching has been horrid lately. So many concerns- I’m hoping they can still right the ship.

  • https://profiles.google.com/105668650510920614054 Brian Bernard

    First off Tim, I really liked the article layout and process. If there was 100% going to be a platoon at first. If you accept that and then talk about plugging in who to each side – actual options in the league – you have to like the two guys that Neal Huntington has chosen. We’re not talking league average bums – we’re talking two guys who are absolutely age appropriate and career appropriate for this role. Both are similar so you have a really quality bat on the bench that is available for that most critical moment – when you really need a threat – in the late innings. I think Tim’s article speaks to NH choosing to have that guy be a quality atbat not just a capable atbat. Power for cheap is still one of the hardest finds in baseball and if they do produce to their full potential as Tim writes, it could be one of the more impressive moves from NH yet. Another interesting follow for the next few years for the team.

    PS: With the pitching going the way it is, it really makes me feel worse about Taillon. However if Cumpton keeps doing what he’s doing the bucs will have to acknowledge and consider him as a HAVE TO move, not a backup move.

  • Lee Young

    in part due to injuries. If he can play up to those numbers, and stay healthy,

    And there’s the rub….IF he can stay healthy…I can live with the ‘streaky’ part…he is basically Pedro on the other side of the IF, but he seems to always get hurt. He was hurt this spring!

  • Lee Young

    Putting this in perspective, that .815 OPS would have ranked 12th in baseball last year among 25 qualified first basemen.

    In other words, “middle of the pack”, average, etc. Will that be worth the player they give up? If he is Dickson, ok. Blake Taylor….not so sure. And DEFINITELY not J Jones, because he is an IF candidate, something which we are not too deep in (we already gave them Herrera).

  • moose7195

    I’m happy that Davis had a good first day, but I still have doubts that he’ll produce enough to make this platoon a success. Here’s to me being wrong for another 140 some games