02 April 2018

Cup of jO's: Chris Davis Looks Different

For well over a year, some of us here at Camden Depot have thought it to be a decent idea to bat Chris Davis first.  This is based on a few things.  First, the club has no obvious prototypical leadoff hitter.  No one has that speed, on-base, gap power description to ink in at the top of the lineup.  In fact, the club has lacked that kind of remarkable player since Brian Roberts strode concussion-free into the batter's box.  Second, Davis is somewhat athletic (or he was) and is one of the better batters on the team getting on base and working counts (or he was).  Third, based on our context models which focus on linearity of data relationships, he seemed to generate the most runs for the team if he led off.

Surprisingly, the Orioles have done that.  Chris Davis started the first three games of the season as the leadoff hitter.  How has it gone?

Standard Batting
11 Y47152042674741505.245.327.489
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/2/2018.

Not all that well.  That said, I have noted on Twitter that although the line looks awful, he has done a decent job with a few aspects of hitter that seem to suggest his failure will quickly turn around.  Some have said that my point is trying to spackle up my previous declarations, but lets take a lot at some of the data.

Pitch Summary -- Batting *
Year PA Pit/PA Str% L/Str S/Str I/Str AS/Str Con L/SO%
11 Y47284.0362.6%22.3%26.8%22.7%77.7%65.6%28.5%
MLB 3.8363.6%27.4%16.0%29.4%72.6%78.0%24.1%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/2/2018.

What we see is that Davis is seeing about 10% fewer pitches.  He is looking at fewer strikes (on par with his last great season), is not missing the ball, and is generating a lot of contact.  Now, the contact has not been incredibly hard hit contact, but in a general sense that usually corrects itself.  In other words, there are aspects here that seem to solve problems that have plagued him over the past couple years.

However, this might be a short run experiment as Roch wrote in his game recap:
“Like I told you, I’m not married to it, but we certainly are looking for something to try to get him going a little bit early in the season,” Showalter said. “It hasn’t been the case so far, but like I said when we first started talking about it, we’ll look at it, step back and see cause and effect or whatever you want to call it. We’re always looking for ways to get better. But Chris is not the only one right now three games into the season with 159 left that’s not exactly doing what we know they’re going to do. We’re trying to present something for the individual that helps the team and so far that hasn’t been the case. Like I said, we’ll continue to look at it as each game comes. I’ll probably talk with three or four of our guys where we are right now on the plane.”
Davis has said he feels that he is failing because as a leadoff hitter, he feels the need to be more aggressive.  Which, is interesting.  Regardless, I would like to see him inked in there the rest of this month and see what happens.  The player and the team may think otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Someone needs to tell Davis he's using faulty logic. Since the rationale for batting him first is based upon his results with the approach he always used in the 4th position, he needs to use the same approach (and get the same results) when batting first to be able to truly test the theory. If Davis changes his approach when batting first then the experiment is more likely to fail as a result (and become a self-fulfilling prophecy).

delavan said...

I don't understand why Davis doesn't hit the ball to the left side of the infield. If he does it a couple of times, it may alter the shift. Given the twin's comments about Cisco bunting, I must be really out of it. Are batters unable to do this? Why shouldn't one adjust to the shift? Is this taboo? What is the taboo? As a lead off hitter, wouldn't getting on base also be an advantage? I don't get it.

Pip said...

This is peripheral to your very interesting article( which convinced me, I'm perfectly willing to let Davis continue to lead off if you think it's a good idea)
But wasn't Nate McLouth a wonderful leadoff hitter? Used all the fields, he hit lovely singles and then stole second, or he hit lovely doubles and camped out waiting to be knocked in. And he was a splendid defender too.

Jon Shepherd said...

Roger - To some extent, yes. I was noting though how certain aspects of his performance look like there is something decent under it all. If he kept doing exactly what he did last season then there would be no useful spot in the lineup for him.

Delavan - When asking Davis to go the other way, you are also kind of asking him to overhaul his mechanics. He really in tuned into being a pull player. It can be difficult to unwind that.

PT - McLouth was OK, but he was no Brian Roberts.

Anonymous said...

Jon, I guess what I meant was keep doing what he did when he was successful which was rare last year and not change his approach. I do agree with delevan on one point and it's that Davis should be bunting more when he leads off. Good article at MLB.com on the subject w/reference to Ted Williams thrown in. That is the one area in his approach that I wish would change at least maybe in his first AB or any time he leads off an inning. If Ted Williams can go 13/15 in bunt attempts, everyone should be doing it....... LOL

delavan said...

Thanks. Can Davis bunt? Just to keep the other team honest. He shouldn't have to rework his mechanics and by doing so the other team may have to rethink their shift. Now the best way to beat the shift is to hit it out of the park. Does this mean that hitters who can hit the ball to all fields are undervalued or will soon be sought after? How much has the shift impacted BA, on base percentage, other statistics?

Unknown said...

I think Alverez is a better offensive player at this point than Davis. Try him at leadoff as a platoon option against RHP (Beckham/Manchini against LHP). Davis and Alverez probably have about the same career walk rate, but I believe Pedro has the better eye and is much better at generating contact overall.

I actually believe Davis lucks his way into some of his walks as opposed to forcing them with a great eye. The caught looking strikout rate seems high. To me that indicates a player who is often begging for a call as a result of low confidence. What I'm saying here is that maybe Alverz walk rate is a bit more credible than Davis' which would add to the case that he is a better leadoff option.