As the trade deadline approaches, speculation continues to swirl about possible moves the Pirates could make. Where can this team find more production?
One area might be at first base. The Pirates began the season with Travis Ishikawa, but designated him for assignment after bringing in Ike Davis from an April trade with the New York Mets. The Mets received right-hander Zack Thornton and left-hander Blake Taylor.
At first, Davis appeared to be the answer. He peaked in May, batting .326 with a .408 on-base percentage, .453 slugging percentage and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .861.
But he began to taper off in June. His line was .183/.330/.268 and he had an OPS of .597. July hasn't been very generous to him, either, and his numbers remain low.
His decline brought about rumors that the Pirates might take to the market to find a more productive first baseman before the trade deadline.
"I'm here to play," Davis said Saturday. "If they don't like it, then they'll do what they need to do. That's just the way it is."
But it doesn't seem likely that the Pirates will seek other options. They have more pressing needs, such as the starting rotation, and already made a trade to get Davis in the first place.
If anything, there's hope that Davis' history will repeat itself.
"I've always been a second-half player," he said.
Throughout his career, Davis has seen drastic improvement from the first half of the season to the second.
Last season, his first-half line was .165/.255/.250 with an OPS of .505, but in the second half he was much more successful at .286/.449/.505 with an OPS of .954.
In his career, his second half OPS is .868.
"We're trying to set him up to have success like we do any player," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He knows in his own mind that there's been years where the second has been much stronger."
"There are a lot of games left," Davis said. "I only have 200-some at-bats so, it's like half. I have a lot of room. If I had 300 or 400, there would be a lot more to improve on."
Davis will have ample time to prepare himself for this second half. Coming off the All-Star break, Davis saw little action in the weekend series against Colorado.
With a barrage of left-handed pitchers facing the Pirates in recent games, the other half of the platoon, Gaby Sanchez, has gotten the nod. Sanchez is hitting .239 on the season in 163 at-bats.
"You'd rather be out there," Davis said. "You always want to play, it doesn't matter what it is. It's going to be a decent amount of time without starting, but I'm sure I've probably done it before. I just have to jump in and help the team when I get a chance."
The production from Davis and Sanchez hasn't been where it needs to be. The Pirates are right in the mix for the National League Central crown, and they will need more out of their first basemen in order to tighten the race.
"We don't have any pressure with anything," Davis said. "We do this for each other and ourselves. That's all we think about."
Ryan Petrovich: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @RyanPetrovich.