Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The disappointing season of Chris Davis

Nobody expected Chris Davis to be able to match what he did last year when he hit over fifty homers and was worth 54 runs on offense. He was on my regression list to start the season and pretty much everyone else's. But I at least thought he would be better than what he has shown thus far. After 55 games, his offense has only been worth 2.4 runs on offense and his slugging percentage has fallen almost 200 points.
Maybe it is the Brady Anderson disease. Remember Brady Anderson? He's the Oriole player that hit 50 homers in 1996 in one of the all-outlier seasons and hit 18 the following season. But at least Anderson still batted .288 the next season with a .393 on-base percentage. Davis, after batting .286 last year with a .370 on-base percentage a year ago, is only batting .228 with a .338 on-base percentage.
One thing I notice from his spray charts is that he is not hitting the ball with authority to the opposite field. The first spray chart (courtesy of Fangraphs.com) shows what he did last year and notice all the black home run balls to the opposite field:
chart (7)

Now look at this year's:
chart (6)
He has only hit one homer to the opposite field. He is hitting more line drives the other way, but his natural pull tendency has gotten even stronger. This allows the defense to really bunch him up and his BABIP is off 50 points from last year despite a five point increase in his line drive percentage.
His batted ball tendency is heightened because of his strikeout rate, which is always going to be high. He is striking out at the same pace as last year (just under 30%) even though his plate discipline is better (walk rate is up from a year ago). His swing and miss rate is higher than last year.
What is somewhat disturbing is that this trend really started in the second half of last year. Davis did most of his damage in the first half when he hit 37 of his homers. If you put his second half of last year with the first half of this year together, it adds up to a triple slash line of .237/.339/.482.
While the result is still better than average and good for a 117 wRC+, it certainly isn't the 167 wRC+ that he attained last year.
Chris Davis still has one of the sweetest strokes in baseball and he can hit the ball out of any ballpark. But last year and particularly the first part of last year seem more and more like anomalous to who he is. We all thought he would regress, but not to this extent. Let's hope he can flip the switch in the second half and be the kind of player the Orioles hoped he was building up to be.

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