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Entries in Chris Davis (13)

Saturday
Apr062013

Chris Davis is Making Earl Weaver Proud

Chris Davis is one pace to blast 162 homers and drive in 648 runs during the 2013 season. Okay, so the O's first baseman probably won't put Barry Bonds and Hack Wilson to shame this year. But he is off to an historic start, becoming just the fourth player ever to begin the season with a home run in each of his first four games (Willie Mays, Mark McGwire and Nelson Cruz are the others). Davis' eighth-inning grand slam against the Twins was especially fitting on a night when Baltimore honored the late Earl Weaver, who abhorred bunting and played for the big inning with sluggers like Boog Powell and Eddie Murray. Here's how Davis has made the Earl of Baltimore proud.

  • Davis has hit two homers apiece off right-handers (Roberto Hernandez and Jeremy Hellickson) and lefties (Jake McGee and Tyler Robertson). The lefty slugger was lousy against same-handed pitching early on during his big league career (he batted .236 and slugged .418 in 298 plate appearances against left-handers from 2008-11), but he's now batting .267 and slugging .533 in 126 PA versus lefties since the beginning of the 2012 season. The sample size is small, but he has significantly cut his miss rate against lefties from 2008-11 (35%) to 2012-present (26.5%).
  • Three of his four homers have come on pitches thrown on the outside corner of the plate, with Davis flicking two of them to the opposite field and pulling one to right. Davis has hit 15 homers on pitches thrown outside since the beginning of 2012, tying him with Edwin Encarnacion for third-most among MLB hitters.

Most HR on pitches thrown outside, 2012-Present

  • Two of Davis' homers have come on the first pitch. He has as many first-pitch homers from 2012-13 (nine) as former free-swinging teammate Josh Hamilton, and he ranks in the top ten among all MLB batters in first-pitch HR over that time frame.
  • Davis also has two home runs on soft stuff, driving a slider and a changeup over the fence. You might think that a hulking, high-strikeout slugger like Davis would struggle against breaking and off-speed pitches, but he actually has the second-most HR in the majors on curves, sliders and changeups since 2012.

Most HR on breaking and off-speed pitches, 2012-13

 

 

Wednesday
May022012

Chris Davis Connecting, Crushing for O's

The Baltimore Orioles enter Wednesday's 7 p.m. tilt with the New York Yankees on ESPN with a 1.5 game lead over the Bombers for second place in the American League East, and first baseman Chris Davis is a major reason why. The former Rangers farmhand had just a 94 OPS+ in parts of four seasons with Texas and posted the same mark with the O's last summer after getting swapped to Baltimore along with Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara. Given one more chance in 2012, Davis is thriving by making more contact.

The lefty slugger struck out in 31.5 percent of his plate appearances from 2008-11, trailing only new teammate Mark Reynolds and Kelly Shoppach for the highest K rate in the majors over that time frame. Davis was particularly whiff-tastic on pitches thrown high in the strike zone. Check out his contact rate by pitch location from 2008-11, and then the league average for lefty hitters:

Davis' contact rate by pitch location, 2008-11

League average contact rate by pitch location for left-handed hitters, 2008-11

Davis missed 42 percent of the high pitches that he swung at from 2008-11, compared to the 18-19 percent major league average. Danny Espinosa, Reynolds and Russ Branyan were the only hitters to come up empty more often when swinging at high stuff. This year, Davis has made solid gains in connecting on upper-third pitches:

Davis' contact rate by pitch location, 2012

The 26-year-old's miss rate on high pitches has declined to 27 percent. That, in turn, has helped him cut his K rate to 22 percent and tap into the power present in his 6-foot-3, 230 pound frame. Davis has five home runs, matching his 2011 total. And with a 175 OPS+ he ranks behind just the Cubs' equally surprising slugger shedding the Quad-A label, Bryan LaHair (240), and the White Sox' Paul Konerko (194) among first basemen. Davis might not be this good of a hitter, but the extra contact will help him stay in Buck Showalter's lineup and buck concerns that his Pacific Coast League exploits wouldn't translate against pitchers at the highest level.

Monday
Aug012011

Can Chris Davis Connect in Baltimore?

Over the past four seasons, Chris Davis has shuttled back and forth between the Pacific Coast League and Arlington, never establishing himself as a full-time major league starter. Davis' frustration boiled over this spring when he told ESPNDallas.com's Tim McMahon, "I’ve done everything the Rangers have asked me to do. I’ve been a good sport about it. I’ve had a smile on my face and a good attitude about it. When it comes down to it, the fair thing to do is to give me a shot either here or somewhere else."

Over the weekend, Davis got his wish. Texas traded the lefty-swinging slugger and right-hander Tommy Hunter to the Orioles for reliever Koji Uehara. Now that Derrek Lee is a Pirate, Davis (who also has experience at third base and in the outfield) is expected to take over at first base for the O's. The 25-year-old will look to prove that he's more than a minor league masher whose swing-happy, low contact game doesn't translate to the highest level.

In nearly 1,000 career plate appearances at Triple-A, Davis has pulverized pitchers for a .337 average, a .397 on-base percentage and a .609 slugging percentage. Granted, the Pacific Coast League is a fantastic hitter's environment (the league average line since 2008 is .278/.348/.436), but Davis' power production has been off the charts.

In the majors, however, Davis has hit like a Mike Jacobs clone. He's got a .249/.299/.453 line in 957 plate appearances, which is nine percent below average once adjustments for park and league factors are made.

When Davis makes contact, he does plenty of damage. In particular, he creams low-and-in and high-and-away pitches:

 Davis' in-play slugging percentage, 2008-2011

His career Isolated Power (slugging minus batting average) in the majors is .205, while the MLB average has ranged from .140 to .155 in recent years. But the key part of the above paragraph is, "when he makes contact." Sadly, that hasn't been very often:

 Davis' contact rate by pitch location, 2008-2011

Davis has missed 35 percent of the pitches that he has swung at in the majors, and he has an especially hard time against high pitches (42 percent miss rate). The 2008-2011 league average miss rate, by contrast, is slightly over 19 percent. It's no surprise, then, that Davis has struck out in 32 percent of his plate appearances.

Making matters worse, Davis' strike zone is Texas-sized. Look at his swing rate by pitch location, compared to the league average:

 Davis' swing rate by pitch location, 2008-2011

League average swing rate by pitch location, 2008-2011

Davis has chased 35 percent of pitches thrown out of the strike zone from 2008-2011, compared to the 27 percent league average. On a related note, he has drawn a walk in less than seven percent of his plate appearances.

The odds of Davis becoming an offensive force with his current skill set are slim. Baseball-Reference's list of hitters most similar to Davis includes marginal names like Mike Simms, Garrett Jones and Chris Richard. Similarity Scores aren't destiny, of course, but Davis needs to make more contact and get on base to avoid the same sort of career path.