J.D. Davis Struggles Aren’t A Small Sample Size

As is normally the case a week into the baseball season, you will see some players perform above their talent level and some below theirs. When it comes to the slow starts, people typically take more notice and begin to look for reasons and question what is wrong.

When you see Robinson Cano hitting .188 and Brandon Nimmo hitting .087, the prudent course of action is to take a wait and see approach. These are two hitters with a track record, especially Cano, and it is very possible they emerge from these struggles and return to their career norms.

While you are inclined to give Cano and Nimmo the benefit of the doubt, J.D. Davis is a different case. When you look at his hitting .150/.227/.250, it is actually fair to ask if this is what he really is as a hitter.

Certainly, it is fair to point out his 22 plate appearances is an extremely small sample size. If you want to extrapolate it further, his 203 career plate appearances, especially since they are split up over parts of three seasons, are a small sample size as well. That said, it is somewhat troubling that with his receiving more and more opportunities, his OPS+ continues to drop.

At some point, we need to investigate why and if there is more at-hand than the variations associated with a small sample size.

Davis’ biggest proponents will point out how he led the Pacific Coast League in batting average last year. Hitters league or not, Davis put together a solid season hitting .342/.406/.583 with 25 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, and 81 RBI. The disparity between those numbers and his Major League numbers do require closer analysis.

In Triple-A last year, Davis had a 9.5% walk rate and a 18.3% strikeout rate. When Davis made contact, he hit it on the ground 40.6% of the time, and he pulled it 47.2% of the time. By and large, these numbers held true throughout Davis’ minor league career, but it should be noted the strikeout rate was a career low for him. Since he started playing for full season affiliates, Davis had struck out between 23.2% – 28.4% of the time.

Putting aside his results in the majors, his offensive profile looks similar to the type of hitter he was in the minors. In his 203 Major League plate appearances, he has walked 7.9% of the time, and he has struck out 27.1% of the time. He has a 54.2% ground ball rate, and he pulls the ball 45.8% of the time.

When looking at scouting reports, Baseball America said, “It will always come with a significant number of strikeouts and he’s unlikely to hit better than .230-.240 albeit with decent on-base percentages because he draws some walks. While many Astros have embraced hitting more fly balls, Davis’ swing leads to a lot of screaming ground balls.”

Really, when you break it down, this is what Davis is. He’s a hitter who is going to hit the ball very hard on the ground. At a time in baseball history where teams shift and even over-shift, the balls Davis hit for singles and even doubles at the Triple-A level are going to go for ground outs.

Moreover, in an area with advanced data, Major League pitchers are going to be able to pitch Davis much better than a Triple-A pitcher would. They have the scouting reports and ability to pitch it in areas not only where Davis is prone to swing-and-miss, but they are also able to locate it in areas where they know Davis will just pull a grounder into the shift.”

Unfortunately, when you break it down, even though Davis’ raw power rivals that of Pete Alonso, his production is more akin to Eric Campbell, another player who hit the ball very hard on the ground to the left side of the infield. As such, until Davis makes significant adjustments, his career is not going to “launch” the way the Mets anticipated, and sooner or later, he’s going to have be “grounded.”

28 Replies to “J.D. Davis Struggles Aren’t A Small Sample Size”

  1. Pal88 says:

    So, given the above, how much leash do you give him, considering his defense is also suspect.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Me? First one down once Frazier comes off the IL.

      The Mets? Who knows?

  2. LongTimeFan1 says:

    He has the physical tools to succeed in the majors including arm and exit velo.

    It’s the mental part of his game that needs work He thinks too much on defense (hesitation and uncertainty) when he shouldn’t, and thinks too little at the plate when he should.

    He should continue working hard in the majors to improve, but when Todd returns, send Davis back to the minors to focus on particular components of his game on offense and defense that need development, growth, fine tuning. and confidence. He’s only had 203 major league plate appearances. What’s missing is mastery from the neck up. He’s going to be a solid, reliable, consistent major league player when he figures that out.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I really wish it was mental. Nowadays, teams will employ people to help with that.

      Really, the issue is he’s unable to lift the ball, and the Mets hired a hitting coach ill suited to helping him.

  3. LongTimeFan1 says:

    I think we need to draw distinction between “unable to lift the ball” vs. isn’t lifting it often enough.

    His average launch angle this season is 14.9 degrees.

    His longest hit this season is 391feet.

    His hardest hit is 108 Mph.

    His exit velocity averages 97.9 which is second only to Bryce Harper’s 103.

    His balls in play average 140 feet which is better than Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, Ronald Acuna, Marcell Azuna, Jean Segura, Buster Posey and others.


    Davis is hitting the hardest ground balls in the majors @ 102.7 mph.

    His FB/LD’s average 97.0 mph.

    Last season JD Davis and George Springer had same GB% of 50% (50% to 50.1%)

    Carlos Correa averaged 44.4.

    Jose Altuve 48.4

    Davis had a better line drive rate than George Springer.

    David pulled the ball last season 40.5%, straight away 31.1%, right field 28.4%


    JD Davis doesn’t lack ability. He needs to change his approach, timing , mentality and execution to better hone and develop his skills, adjust to major league pitching with emphasis on situational awareness and a level, line drive swing. which should raise his LD rate.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Look, Davis has raw power. That’s obvious, but when you break it all down, he’s a ground ball machine. In 2019, that’s effectively useless.

      1. LongTimeFan1 says:

        Metsdaddy, I’m not making argument in support of ground balls.

        What I’m saying is Davis at 25 has proven ability to drive the ball with authority, and that with the right focus and approach he has the tools to grow and be solid on both sides of the ball. There’s no reason why he can’y raise his line drive % and lower his ground ball %.

        To say as you have that he can’t lift the ball, defies common sense.

        You tend to get stuck on players as they are and how you view them – good or bad – and look for ways to support your POV without considering the mental make up of the player and the role that plays now and in future.

        Every player in the majors is already really good to have gotten there. I suggest you should ask yourself how does this or that player improve, what room is there for growth and what does that player have to do to get there.

        Consider your articles in the last two days. One player you argue is great and doesn’t get enough respect. The other player you argue “can’t lift the ball and is doomed to fail.

        In none of those articles do you consider the mental make up of the player. At the highest level in baseball, i.e., MLB, it’s all about drive and maturity, how does that player get to the next level regardless of God-given talent. Some are more talented than others, but talent alone isn’t the panacea. It’s how the player reacts to adversity as well as God-given gifts, that ultimately determines success or failure in the long term.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Syndergaard is objectivity great, and Davis is objectively bad.

          If you want to use what you perceive to be mental makeups with the players, that’s your prerogative. It still doesn’t change the objective facts.

        2. Paul Schwartz says:

          Love the above comment.
          You watching today?
          This kid has tremendous power and can rip good pitching. Eric Davis (obviously no relation) took a long time to hit his stride.
          Patience is a virtue.
          203 at bats is a pittance.

          1. metsdaddy says:

            Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit three homers in a game.

  4. LongTimeFan1 says:

    Well Davis lifted that right over the center field fence. There you go.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      We’ve seen Campbell hit homers. Should he be hitting cleanup?

      1. LongTimeFan1 says:

        Just stop doubling down on the ridiculous. It’s not the end of the world to have an open mind and grow.

        Campbell never had home run track record in the minors (career high 10) and did little to alter that in majors…7 homers in 505 PA’s.

        Davis has hit 20+ homers in the minors 3 times, and is projected to hit 20-25 per season in majors. He hit two bombs today and now has 7 in his first 205 or so big league PA’s.

        He’s batting clean up because he has that raw power to be that threat against a quality left hand starter in a lineup that’s missing Cespedes and features Alonso’s righty power bat batting second.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Why should I completely change my opinion based on one game?

          1. LongTimeFan1 says:

            You shouldn’t.

            But I think you could be encouraged by today’s bombs, his youth, the confidence boost of these homers delivered against a good left hand pitcher. Growth happens in steps. Today we got a look at what Davis can be when he hits the ball square and has good plate approach looking for a pitch he can/will lift and drive rather than hit hard on the ground.

            I would be happier if we didn’t cough up a lead today and the bullpen held it’s own.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            If he repeats it, I’ll be encouraged. However, everything we’ve seen from him in his entire career suggests this was a blip.

  5. LongTimeFan1 says:

    Now an encore to left field.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Good for him. He’s still bad.

  6. LongTimeFan1 says:

    Do you want him to continue to be as bad as you view him?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Absolutely not.

      1. LongTimeFan1 says:

        Good to hear.

        I want each Met to strive for excellence, to find ways to improve and learn from mistakes.

        Look at Michael Conforto, for instance who was drafted with below average speed and defense and noticeably improved both in the majors through hard work and proper training and approach.

        Keon Broxton is another player I like who hasn’t come close to his ceiling.

        Love the fight in this team. The bullpen however needs to get right and Mets have to keep mistakes down to minimum.

  7. LongTimeFan1 says:

    114.7 mph exit velocity on JD’s first homer today. According to SNY, that’s the hardest hit homer this season in majors.

    1. LongTimeFan1 says:

      Scratch that. I’m reading something else on post game which suggests otherwise.

    2. metsdaddy says:

      He has power. That’s not his issue. It’s how to maximize it.

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