The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the middle of an intense pennant race and are hoping to make the playoffs for a second straight season. But for this to happen, the Pirates are going to need some players to step up and push them into October. Possibly no player needs to step up more than first baseman Ike Davis.
The Pirates acquired Davis from the New York Mets in April for two prospects. The Pirates thought they would be getting a player who could come in and provide a power surge into their lineup, but they got something very different from Davis. Instead of getting the Davis who hit 32 home runs in a season for the Mets, the Pirates got the Davis who spreads the ball all over the field and has a high on-base percentage. But for the Pirates to succeed, they will need Davis to combine these two versions of himself.
The Pirates have had a below average offense this season, despite leading the NL in on-base percentage. They have a negative run differential and several of their starting pitchers have been throwing good games but have received little to no run support. One way to fix this problem is to drive in the players who are getting on base, and the simplest way to drive in players on base is to get extra-base hits. The Pirates thought that Pedro Alvarez would be the player driving these runs in, but he has now been relegated to a bench role. This is where Davis has to step up.
Davis has the same power potential as Alvarez and has the same short porch to work with in right field. Davis is typically the cleanup hitter in the Pirates’ lineup and needs to hit a few balls over that wall when players like Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen get on base. And while Davis is hitting these home runs, it would be great if he could also keep up his batting average and high on-base percentage. This is possible because Davis is notoriously a second-half player, hitting the ball very well down the stretch.
For the Pirates to compete and succeed in this pennant race, they need someone who is going to step up and drive in runs on a consistent basis. With Alvarez hitting the bench, the only other possibility is now Davis. If Davis can channel his typical second-half self and become a force at the plate, the Pirates will have a strong chance of playing more baseball in October.