25 June 2013

Checking in With Chris Davis

Breaking News!  Chris Davis is having a spectacular season at the plate.  Through June 23, here are his offensive statistics and where he ranks in all of baseball for each one.

And while Miguel Cabrera is right behind Davis in both wOBA and wRC+, Davis leads the entire league in slugging percentage by a very comfortable margin (Cabrera is second at 0.644).  As we continue through the 2013 season and Davis accumulates more and more plate appearances, we can begin to trust these numbers with increased confidence, and if the season ended today, Davis would easily set career highs in basically every offensive category.

He would also set career marks for lowest K% and highest BB% as well, and his improved approach at the plate, documented previously on this site here (and here) have been a big reason for his increased production in 2013.  However, looking at the data a little closer, the month of June hasn’t been as kind to Davis as April and May, particularly as it relates to his K% and BB%.

I’m guessing it’s fairly easy to overlook the increased strikeouts and decreased walks since Davis is still having a very productive month, especially hitting for power (his 0.651 slugging percentage would still be at the top of the league).  However, the spike in his strikeout rate and continuing decrease in his walk rate are large enough to raise some eyebrows.  Breaking this down further by comparing Davis’ swing tendencies on individual pitches between the first two months of the season and the month of June (so far) tells us a little bit more.

Statistics courtesy of Texas Leaguers (http://www.texasleaguers.com)

There’s a couple of things going on here, but the important thing to note is that Davis isn’t swinging more at one type of pitch this month, he’s swinging more at basically every type of pitch, and making much less contact.  Of particular concern should be the fact that he’s seeing more fastballs in June (compared to April and May), yet he is missing them at a noticeably higher rate.  This increase in aggressiveness coupled with decreased contact is a good way to get your K% and BB% to go in the wrong direction.

There could be a lot of reasons to explain why this month has not been as good to Chris Davis as the previous two.  Pitchers are always making adjustments, especially when it comes to hitters as dangerous as Davis, and they may have found a better way to limit his damage for the time being (at least until Davis makes his own adjustment).  Additionally, Davis may be losing patience as he sees less pitches in the strikezone, leading to more swings and more whiffs on pitches off the plate.  Then again, this analysis could just be the victim of small sample sizes and arbitrary end points, meaning that it may not “mean” anything.   Or it could be a combination of all three.  The fact that Chris Davis has an elevated strikeout rate and a depressed walk rate in the month of June shouldn’t cause anyone to sound the alarms, but it is something to keep an eye on.  

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