The Orioles are a team surrounded with platoon-level players.
The Chris Parmelees, Ryan Flahertys and Travis Sniders of the world find a home in Baltimore because of Dan Duquette's and Buck Showalter's ability and willingness to put those guys in the best situation to help the Orioles win baseball games. Where would the O's be right now without the best hitter in the world, Jimmy Paredes? Though Steve Pearce has been unable to replicate his 2014 season, his versatility in the field and occasional pop are still of value to the Orioles.
For a team that lacks an abundance of star power, the focus, at least in my opinion, has been locked on the ever-revolving platoon. Adam Jones' hot start was followed by a sub-par month of May, which was followed by a productive, yet shortened month of June, a result of lingering shoulder issues. Manny Machado's demolition of the American League was well-followed, and rightfully so. Matt Wieters every-other-day return to the O's lineup has been gradual, yet efficient.
All this noise surrounding the Orioles has somewhat clouded the fact that O's first baseman Chris Davis has actually been as solid as the team could have expected.
As it stands today, Chris Davis is slashing .238/.328/.491, to go with 18 HR's and a team-leading 49 RBI's. His home run and RBI totals are both fifth-best in the American League, and while his 100 strikeouts are the third-highest mark in the AL, he has shown signs of growing patience at the plate.
In April, a month in which Davis slashed a respectable .268/.333/.568, Crush saw an average of 3.97 pitches per plate appearance, falling at the 39th-most in baseball. He seemed less eager to jump out at close two-strike pitches, even managing to foul off what appeared to be more pitcher's pitches, allowing him to explode for a 95.4% of medium to hard batted balls. A .359 BABIP resulted from extended patience, leading to a more consistent Davis.
The month of May was offensively brutal for the entire Orioles' team, with Davis being no exception. Crush slumped to the tune of a .196/.301/.464, but still adding 7 HR's and 14 RBI's. Davis even saw more pitches per plate appearance, averaging 4.14 pitches seen per at-bat, but 40 strikeouts and a rather unlucky .235 BABIP brought misery to his stat line.
Davis still hit the ball hard when he wasn't watching or swinging at strike three, jumping his line drive percentage up from 18.2% in April to 25.9% in May, but a 4% jump in balls being hit to the right side and fewer balls being lifted in the air resulted in more outs. Simply, Davis looked like he was trying to kickstart the offense singlehandedly, when in reality, he couldn't do it alone. The Orioles struggled as a unit, and Davis' attempts to hit the 10-run home run were for not.
Davis returned to form in June, working to a .257/.350/.457 slash, and yes, the ability to drive in runs stayed consistent, as Crush managed 6 HR's and 19 RBI's. Davis saw the 8th-highest number of pitches per plate appearance at 4.32 per at-bat, and of course, he did strike out 29 times in 117 plate appearances, but that comes with the territory of having an uppercut swing. Davis managed more hits and a higher on-base percentage because of his utilization of the entire field, finding center field nearly 10% more in June than in May, and finding right field just tad more often.
It's hard to ignore the month of May, but if you find it in your heart to erase it from your memory (and I'm sure the Orioles team wouldn't mind if you did), Davis has been a .263/.342/.512 hitter, which is what he's actually looked like. Compare that to his .196/.300/.404 mark a year ago, we've seen a very-much improved Chris Davis. Furthermore, Davis is on pace for 38 dingers and 104 RBI's. Not too shabby.
Say what you want about his mythical 2013 season, but this is probably the Crush we can come to expect for the rest of the summer, and I'm perfectly OK with it.
He's what Buck Showalter once described as a guy with a high "contact to damage ratio", and while his frequency of strike threes can be maddening, there is always a place for a guy that can hit the ball farther than 99.9% of the human population. He isn't perfect, he'll continue to strike out in key situations, but the Orioles are lucky to have Davis, especially when it appears he really is trying to become a more balanced hitter.
The ever-revolving platoon does get quite the attention, but don't forget how valuable Chris Davis is.