July 14, 2020

Saviors Like Urshela, Davis Can Sink Teams Too

In an interesting twist of fate both the Mets and Yankees had to go to Plan C at third base. For the Mets, with Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier injured to start the year, that meant J.D. Davis was going to get a chance to play. As the season began, it looked like the Mets may actually have something in him.

Over his first 18 games of the season, Davis was hitting .273/.385/.491. He had some key base hits, and he had a two home run game under his belt. Sure, he was not playing well in the field, but at least to start the year, his bat was enough to carry his glove. In some ways, his hitting and his defense reminded you of the type of season Miguel Andujar had for the Yankees last year.

Speaking of Andujar, he has undergone season ending shoulder surgery. With Troy Tulowitzki also suffering an injury, the Yankees had to reshuffle their infield. That meant Gleyber Torres moved from second to short, and DJ LeMahieu would go from filling in at third to taking over his natural second base position. This opened the door for Gio Urshela to come from out of nowhere to become the Yankees savior.

In 37 games, Urshela is hitting .343/.395/.481. More than the numbers, he has been clutch. With RISP, he is batting .414. With two outs and RISP, he is batting .500. He’s had a number of big hits which has helped the Yankees go from under .500 to first place in the AL East. When you consider his defensive reputation, you could foresee this being a better version of what Scott Brosius was to the Yankees last dynasty.

Of course, we should also remember this is Urshela. There’s a reason he’s a 27 year old rookie who was twice moved for cash considerations in the span of four months. Entering this year, he was a .225/.274/.315 hitter over 499 plate appearances. You could argue he has now figured something out, but when you look at his .393 BABIP, 5.9% walk rate, and his 1.52 GB/FB, you can see much of his production has been luck dependent.

If you’re the Yankees, there is nothing wrong with that. Teams need their fair share of luck to win games and make the postseason. You need players like Urshela to step up and play above their heads. The delicate balancing act for a good team is knowing when to ride it out and when to leave behind the glass cleat before the player turns into a pumpkin.

For their part, the Mets waited too long. Since his hot start, Davis is hitting .280/.294/.380 over his last 20 games. While there may be excuses proferred related to his playing time, that obfuscates the fact Davis has a .329 BABIP and a 51.3% ground ball rate. Combine that with his inability to hit a fastball or change-up and his subpar defense, and he’s mostly been a liability for a Mets team that has gone from first place to under .500.

In essence, Davis returned to being the sub replacement level player he was with the Astros. A Mets team who was once benefiting from his good luck is now losing games with a player whose luck has apparently ran out. The Mets couldn’t quite master the delicate balancing act Davis required. We will see if the Yankees are able to handle Urshela better.