Not only is Chris Davis one handsome devil, but he's been the ideal left-handed slugger in a season in which the Orioles have been desperate for offensive firepower.
Deep into the 2015 season, Davis has consistently been one of the American League's most-feared bats, and as of late, Crushtopher has found a groove reminiscent of his record-breaking 2013.
Davis has re-established himself with an overwhelming .248/.330/.517 slash line, a hearty slice of retribution after hitting a dismal .196/.300/.404 a year ago. Not only has Davis already hit more home runs (28 in 105 games) than he did a season ago (26 in 127 games), Joe Angel's favorite "big fella" continues his redemption from an awfully-timed 25-game Adderall suspension last September. Though the O's surely could have used Davis in October, the past is the past, and his current rampage in the here and now should soothe any lingering wounds.
Davis' impending free-agent status has been the talk of widespread debate as to whether the Orioles should indeed make a push to keep him, or tender him a $15M qualifying offer, hope he refuses and take the draft pick compensation. As the O's 2015 playoff hopes become more and more unclear, Davis' importance to the Baltimore lineup has been anything but. The Orioles need Davis, and hopefully Crush realizes he needs Baltimore too.
One of the most impressive aspects of Davis' resurgence has been his patient at the plate, a facet of his hitting approach that turned into his biggest bugaboo. Power hitters like Davis aren't expected to kid themselves into working counts waiting for the perfect pitch, but instead go downs guns-a-blazin'. Though Davis does lead the AL in strikeouts (135), that's always been part of his game. Instead it turns into what he does when it truly does matter, just as he did yesterday afternoon against the Athletics.
Top of the 10th, bases loaded in a 3-3 game, Davis followed Adam Jones who popped out to second base in a much-needed RBI situation. In comes Davis, who now faces the pressure of grounding into a double play or failing to execute in the clutch, just like Jones before him. He kicks off the at-bat by taking a first-pitch fastball outside. Arnold Leon does well to drop in a 1-0 curveball for a strike, a pitch that may very well have produced a swing and a miss or weak contact somewhere, especially in a fastball count. Though Davis lays off, and does so again on another curveball outside, working a precious count into his 2-1 favor.
Leon then spots a perfect 2-1 fastball on the outside corner, missing Davis' bat, and putting himself in the driver's seat in a 2-2 count. Leon again makes Davis attempt at a fastball on the outside corner, but Davis doesn't bite at a pitch outside of the zone. In a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and one out, Leon has to come over the plate, and Davis knows it, because he manipulated the at-bat back into his control. What he does next, well, is something us O's fans have come to chalk down as routine.
The best part of this swing is that Davis wasn't looking to hook the baseball or cheat on it, knowing he is likely to get a fastball somewhere near the plate. Instead, he lets the ball travel and uncorks a grand slam in a part of the O.co Coliseum that only a handful of left-handers can reach. But, most importantly, it was all made possible because he stayed within himself at a time when the Orioles needed him the most. A sacrifice fly or any sort of RBI production would have sufficed, but Crush went above and beyond, as did the baseball.
Saint Crushtopher not only showed it yesterday, but his patience at the plate has been a year long odyssey.
|Chris Davis Plate Discipline||O-Swing%||O-Contact%||Zone%||SwStr%|
As Fangraphs' wonderful data shows, Davis' is doing his best to not swing at pitches out of the zone, which is forcing more pitches into the strike zone (as indicated by a 42.0% zone percentage, which calculates pitches seen over the plate). Seeing more strikes has kept a career-best 14.7% swinging strike rate consistently down, allowing baseball's 11th-best hard hit rate of 39.3% to take over.
It's convenient to say, in a contract year, that Davis is doing this all to break the bank after the season is finished, but the strides he's made as a batter were not easy habits to break, considering his past and his desire to restore his reputation in the clubhouse.
Speaking of the clubhouse, there never seemed to be any sort of discourse or angst from Davis after moving from first base, where he is a Gold Glove caliber defender, to the outfield. The transition from a more stationery position to a big league corner outfield spot is not one to take lightly. That change of position, to me, shows that he truly is a clubhouse favorite that believes in the philosophy the Orioles regime has spilled into the dugout. Davis seems to be well-liked amongst his teammates, and it shows in his team-player attitude. He's a Buck Showalter kind of guy.
Among soon-to-be free agents, Davis is extremely lucky to enter a year in which only Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes present the same kind of bop that Crush does, and both of them play in the outfield. Davis' availability as a lefty, corner infielder will make him a hot commodity, especially if he continues on his torrid pace.
For the Orioles, a team that faces to lose notables Steve Pearce, Gerardo Parra, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O'Day and Matt Wieters, the reclamation of some stability would serve well for a team that is in the midst of what could be an uncertain future.
Whether or not a deal for Davis can be made is still up in the air, but the Orioles will have the first crack at a 29, soon to be 30 year-old slugger that has produced no less than 26 HRs and 72 RBIs in his three-plus seasons in Baltimore, is showing a savvy new approach at the plate and fits the Orioles mold. In an era of has-beens switching area codes for the big-money deal, it only seems right that Davis doesn't take the chance. He's a fan-favorite here with an attitude that fits a ballclub that's hard not to love (only when they aren't hitting then do I start questioning my faith), and the Orioles need a guy that has the capability of creating earthquakes on Eutaw Street.
I surely don't want to see you go.