There's not really that much to say about Chris Davis's continuing struggles in 2014 that hasn't already been said. Whether it's a lingering oblique injury, an inability to overcome defensive shifts, a loss of the sweet, flat 2013 swing that produced power to all fields, or some combination of the above, Davis just isn't getting it done this year, hitting just .200/.311/.397 with 16 home runs. This, after a brilliant 2013 campaign where he broke the franchise home run record, led MLB in home runs, and slashed a swoon-worthy .286/.370/.634.
As I said above, any number of things could be hampering Davis. I'm not interested in trying to figure out which combination of things is the actual culprit. I am interested in the following facts:
- Since returning from the DL on May 11th, Davis has only sat out four games.
- Frustrating season aside, Davis is still hitting an acceptable (albeit unexceptional) .199/.328/.408, with 12 of his 16 HRs, against right-handed pitching.
So, the obvious question presents itself: Why is Davis still automatically starting essentially every Orioles game, even against left-handed pitchers? If Davis's oblique is part of the problem, occasional single days of rest won't necessarily fix it, but they won't hurt, either. If Davis's problem is that he's pressing, or uppercutting his swing, a day of rest here and there may well help to hit the reset button a little bit.
The Orioles' 25-man roster is constructed with a bit of a glut of positionless right-handed hitters, in the form of Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce and Delmon Young. These three guys all hit lefties far, far better than they hit righties, and they can't all start against the same left-handed pitcher unless Davis is sitting, allowing Pearce to play first while Cruz DHs (as he always should) and Young plays left field.
But against a tough left-handed starter, there's no reason for the Orioles not to do exactly this. Davis is simply not getting the job done right now, and the Orioles can deploy three assets who have basically the sole skill of romping lefties, exactly the most painful hole in Davis's game.
Giving Davis some platoon bench trips may or may not fix him. In all likelihood, nothing is going to fix him until a fresh start in 2015 at this point. But as long as the Orioles are dealing with (at most) a partially effective Davis, they may as well own up to what they have and squeeze the maximum advantage out of their roster. As dedicated as Buck Showalter seems to be to treating his veterans as everyday players, the Orioles are looking at a rare opportunity to seize upon a weakened AL East and proceed directly to an ALDS this season. Playing Davis to maximum advantage when he's not producing prodigiously is part of that equation.