27 June 2018

Meet Chris Davis 2.0, Same As The Old Chris Davis

After a June 11 loss to the Red Sox, Buck Showalter benched Chris Davis. Working with some combination of Scott Coolbaugh, Howie Clark, and most notably, Brady Anderson, the Orioles' do-it-all vice president of baseball operations who wants the freedom to keep doing whatever he wants to do, Davis went to work on fixing his batting approach.

During Davis's absence, Showalter noted that Davis would return to the lineup when he got the go-ahead from Anderson and Coolbaugh. He also wouldn't go into the details of what Davis was working on, giving this interesting response:
"I don't think that's fair to him," Showalter said. "It's tough, in a business that you want this instant return. It's like years ago, Rick Down was a first-year hitting coach in New York and he had great ideas — as good a hitting coach as you ever want to see.

"The only thing I cautioned him with big league hitters is be careful coming in so strong right out of the chute, the first day in the cage in spring training because they'll be receptive, but if they don't get this instant return, it's going to be a while until you're going to be able to get in there again. You kind of watch them and take things in and sooner or later, they're going to come over to you and say, hey, what do you think? Then you got them. Because if they don't get an instant return, sometimes at this level, I think the players are so talented, there's some things that he and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh] and [assistant hitting coach Howie Clark] do, sometimes there's not that instant return that doesn't always come. Sometimes, it's on to the next thing. Sometimes, that can be tough, too. It's true with everybody, not just Chris."
I don't know for sure, but that seems like a long-winded way of saying Davis is impatient. Then again, a few days later, Roch Kubatko dropped this nugget in his morning article on June 17 (emphasis added):
Davis’ t-shirt was soaked with sweat as he returned to the clubhouse and he was in good spirits. It may not provide a solution, but Davis is working on making changes to his approach at the plate. He’s been stubborn to do so, according to multiple people in the organization, but he’s currently under renovation.
Maybe that's not surprising for someone who had so much success earlier in his career. Still, Davis finally surfaced in the O's lineup again on June 22 against the Braves. In his first plate appearance, he walked. In his second, he homered! Later in the game, he also hit a sacrifice fly and was intentionally walked. The next day, Davis knocked in three runs with a bases-clearing double. Considering Davis hadn't collected an extra-base hit for over a month (since May 18), hitting a home run and a double on back-to-back days seemed incredible.

Since that game, though, Davis has failed to reach base in his next 11 plate appearances. Despite that solid return game, Chris Davis 2.0 has performed closely to the first version:

Davis through June 11: .207 wOBA, 23 wRC+, 8.3 BB%, 37.6 K% (229 PA)
Davis from June 22-26: .224 wOBA, 35 wRC+, 9.1 BB%, 45.5 K% (22 PA)

It's such a small sample, so perhaps the results will show up soon. Showalter cautioned that Davis needs to stick with his apparent new approach and fixes, even through the hard times.

Still, while expecting wholesale changes was unlikely -- it's not like Davis was going to completely transform into some contact hitter or entirely overhaul his batting stance in a week and a half -- Davis doesn't look much different from the earlier version.

Here's how his batting stance looked the day before he was benched:

And here's how it looked yesterday against the Mariners:

Maybe his stance is slightly more closed, and perhaps his hands are a little lower. But they're nearly identical.

When Davis struck out on June 11, it looked like this:

Davis struck out three times yesterday. The second one looked like this:

Maybe it's somewhat unfair to focus on these two trips to the plate by Davis. The first is against Steven Wright, a knuckleballer. The second is against James Paxton, one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game. But the day before facing Wright, Davis batted against Marco Estrada and looked the same. Yet, as Showalter has noted more than once, when Davis is back, he's back. It doesn't matter who the opposing pitcher is.

There's no sign that another benching is coming soon. By all accounts, Davis is going to play every day for an extended period of time. The hope is that whatever changes he worked on start to produce actual results, like in those first two games back.

At some point, though, if Davis keeps doing what he's doing, even a team that's 30 games under .500 has to give this up. Whether he hits or not, Davis is going to earn every penny that's owed to him. It's up to the O's to realize that Davis, who has far and away been the worst player in baseball this year, is beyond fixing. That almost certainly won't come this year, but maybe it'll come in 2019. There's only so many times someone can think "he can't be this bad" before reality sets in.


louie said...

I've stopped going to Oriole games, largely because of Chris Davis. It is no fun watching him and the rest of this team strike out and lose time and time again. Davis has now struck out 6 times in a row, and he has 26 consecutive games with at least one strikeout. He has almost 3X as many strikeouts as hits, yet we're going to keep running him out there indefinitely? Davis is costing the Orioles a lot more than his outrageous salary. He's driving away paying customers like me. No reasonable person wants to watch this.

Unknown said...

I am a season ticket holder and have been for several years.However i can stay home and watch Chris Davis strike out or hit into the shift.When i enter the left field seating area i ask one of the ushers to pick a number 2 3 or 4.Whatever number the young lady chooses i tell her that is the amount of strikeouts Chtis Davis will have that game.Every time Chris Davis strikes out everyone stands up and applaudes his lackadaisical effort of producing and getting on base.Every time that shift is put on him he should bunt down the third base line get on base and let one of the other 8 players in the lineup bring him in.Its time he earned his outrageous salary.As this continues attendance will fall off more than it has and the orioles will be the laughing stock of M L B.But don't worry Buck has the perfect response at his post game interview.He always says Whats up?Years ago the orioles had a season that began with a slogan Why Not.This season i have come up with a slogan that pertains to this team's effort and record as of June 27.The new slogan that the fans will find accurate and hilarious is WHY BOTHER.

Dustin said...

Everybody has had the dream where you're suddenly placed in a job, circumstance, or whatever, and you have no idea how to do it. For me it's being on stage of a Broadway play (I have never acted) and am suddenly being asked to perform some sort of musical. I try to fake it, but it's instantly clear very quickly that I am a total fraud. Chris Davis has to be feeling like this every single day of his entire life. It has to be an absolute nightmare for him, and I have a lot of sympathy for him in this situation. How can someone achieve this atrocious level of play in the same lifetime in which they also hit 51 home runs in a season? It's completely inexplicable, and he must feel awful waking up every day and going to the ballpark, only to beat his head into the wall as he tries to regain some semblance of ability that made him arguably the most feared power hitter in baseball for a time.

Like, I know that I'm kind of belaboring the point here, but Chris Davis was, very literally, at worst, one of the five most impressive power hitters in the game (and I'm being pretty conservative in saying Top Five). Chris Davis, once again, was one of the five best people on this entire planet at frequently hitting a baseball hard and far. It boggles my mind that he is in range for having the single worst season in the history of baseball by certain metrics. Let that sink in. Imagine being one of the greatest people in the world at anything (almost nobody can realistically do this, because almost nobody is in the Top, like, 50 million of Doing A Thing, really), and then falling so far that you could have the singular worst year of doing that exact same thing in like five years. What Chris Davis is doing is unheard of in any realm. It is truly unbelievable in the literal sense of the word.

Unknown said...

Being a professional athlete is hard. Only the best of the best stay great for more then a few years. Davis was always a flawed hitter but previously his true plus skill overshadowed the weakness. Once you age and the great skills erode even a little the weaknesses explode. Happens to every player, just playees with more rounded skill sets age a bit more gracefully.

Unknown said...

Even Vlad Guerrero, Albert Pujos all time great players eventually end up in this point. Diff between all time great players and ok guys you barely remember is how long they hold the peak.

Main theme is playing Professional sports is hard. Being one of the better players is even harder. Being one of the better players past age 29ish is even harder. It eventually gets to such a hard spot only 5 or so people a decade accomplish it.

Unknown said...

On Davis his bat speed seems to be down significantly. His athletisicm seems to have eroded signifigantly. There a bunch of stats showing this pretty consistently (exit velocity, run speed, DEFENSE ratings). He was an extremely good athlete for his size. Made the package work. Now not so much sadly. I honestly dont even feel he could be an average player at this point he just doesnt have it anymore.

Curious how long they run him out there. He will prob get the rest of this yese and hopefully they cut bait this winter but who knows.

Unknown said...

Also seems very simular to Adam Dunn. Pretty good player, excellent athlete for his size was very good until about 30 then exploded to sub replacement level extremely fast. These huge guys with this skill set dont seem to age well.