In 2013, at age 27, Chris Davis created 142.8 runs for the Baltimore Orioles, according to Baseball-Reference. That was a shockingly good number. In fact, it’s the 14th-highest number posted by any age-27 player since 1969. (We should note, it’s not an adjusted figure.)
In 2014, Davis has battled injuries, and has seen his strikeout rate creep from just on the right side of 30 percent to somewhere just on the wrong side. He’s still walking just as often, though, and it’s not like Davis’s power has evaporated overnight (though it’s badly dampened).
Here’s Davis’s problem in two pictures:
See how much more often Davis is pulling the ball this season? That’s the problem. it’s a recipe for disaster. It means fewer fly balls, and less hard contact, because rolling over the ball doesn’t lead to good exit velocity. What set 2013 Chris Davis apart was the all-fields power, and the willingness to tap into it. With defenses shifting against him and so much strength to do great things going the other way, Davis never ought to have changed a thing. He has, though, and he’s paying the price. Check out his BABIP by hit direction:
Chris Davis, 2014 BABIP by Hit Direction
Overall, his BABIP is down this season, from .336 to .260. That small table explains that.
Davis had better straighten things out, because he’s in danger of becoming the biggest age-28 flop of the modern era. As I noted, Davis had the 14th-best age-27 season (by one measure, anyway) since 1969. His adjusted OPS+ indicated he was 69 percent better than a league-average hitter. This season, though, Davis has a 97 OPS+, suggesting he’s worse than the league average. Of the 19 guys who join Davis as the most productive 27-year-olds since 1969, only one other–Jacoby Ellsbury–was a below-average hitter at age 28. In fact, only Ellsbury and Chuck Knoblauch (110 OPS+ at age 28) were less than 28 percent above the league average.
I don’t want to project onto Davis. I’ve seen him hit several times this season, and while it looks to me like he’s overswinging and focusing too much on repeating his 53 home runs from last year, instead of his good overall numbers, I am not a scout. For whatever reason, though, Davis has gotten pull-happy in the worst possible way, and unless he turns it around, he’ll finish writing the worst sequel to an elite prime-age season we’ve seen in over 40 years.Next post: Tigers, Mariners Make Interesting Matchup, Even in Uninteresting Games
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