Some say that a god from Norse lore wears an Orioles uniform. Others say that it is the Hulk. Still more call him Crush, with the O's bestowing added legitimacy by having Crush Davis t-shirt night. His name is Chris Davis, and whatever else you prefer to call him, you can call him the Orioles single season home run record holder.
His at-bats are can't-miss television. Will he flick his wrists at a pitch down and away and golf it into the right field seats? Will he pull a massive home run onto Eutaw Street? Will he launch a baseball, dead center, into the bleachers in front of the Jumbotron? Could he be the first player to manage to hit the B&O Warehouse on the fly? Anything seems possible when Davis steps to the plate.
There was a time where we were not so excited by him. Acquired by the Orioles prior to the 2011 non-waiver trade deadline, along with Tommy Hunter, in exchange for Koji Uehara, Davis looked like a flawed, strong guy. We missed Koji. We feared Davis would just be another bust who strikes out all of the time and we wanted to keep a reliever. That was loser thinking.
Now, the sky seems to be the limit. His 2013 season was one of the greatest seasons of offense in Orioles history. It may have been the greatest. He stands alone with 53 home runs. He added 42 doubles, proving that he is not a one-trick pony. His walk rate was almost half again as much as his career rate before the season, and he was the lone qualifying Oriole to walk in over 10% of his plate appearances. That all adds up to a .286/.370/.634 batting line, the fourth-highest slugging percentage in franchise history.
Davis accomplished all of this while making $3.3 million in his first year of arbitration. For as much as we have been looking forward to Brian Roberts' $10 million coming off the books to free up payroll, a large chunk of that will get plowed right into an arbitration raise. He has two more years of team control remaining, making him a free agent after the 2015 season.
Painting Davis as an Oriole long into the future is complicated by the fact that he is represented by Scott Boras. What is a player who has hit 86 home runs in the last two seasons worth? Davis will be 28 next season, so any contract extension would kick in on the wrong side of 30.
Worth considering are his batting splits. Outside of Camden Yards, he batted .266/.352/.602. That's still excellent, so we can't ding him for road performance. Post-All Star Break, he batted .245/.339/.515, a good, but not great, number. He may have worn down in the second half as he played 160 games on the season. He had a sub-.800 OPS for both July and September.
These are important factors in trying to determine his value to the Orioles, present and future. One thing that is certain is that he will be a well-paid baseball player. The question is how long the Orioles will be the team that pays him well.
For his accomplishments, Davis was named by local sports media members as the Most Valuable Oriole, and he has been nominated for baseball's Hank Aaron Award, which selects the most outstanding offensive performer in each league. He should place as high as third in Most Valuable Player voting for the American League. He deserves every accolade that might be heaped upon him.
In a season marked by disappointment, Davis was the brightest star. Whatever happens, Orioles fans should be able to look forward to him being on the team next season, where he will hopefully have another 40+, or even 50+, home run season.
Before you head off to other parts of the Internet, admire Chris Davis hitting a baseball 466 feet:
How many home runs do you think Davis will hit next season? Do you think the Orioles will, or should, sign him to a contract beyond his arbitration seasons?