Chris Davis is not in a good place. This is not a breaking news bulletin. The fact has been painfully apparent for Orioles fans since at least the beginning of last season. Things are even worse so far in 2018, with Davis putting up a .166/.241/.272 batting line through the team’s first 46 games. Then there are the strikeouts. Geez, the strikeouts.
Strikeouts are not an inherent evil in and of themselves. You might have hear differently from a parent or grandparent because in their younger days, strikeouts were viewed much more negatively. Even in my own lifetime, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn never struck out more than 40 times in a single season over a 20-year career. That’s part of what made him a Hall of Famer.
Today, in the era of bullpens full of flamethrowers, ever-increasing infield shifts, and hitters trying to beat those shifts by increasing the launch angle of their batted balls, strikeouts are a fact of life. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted in April that MLB has set a strikeout record each of the past 11 seasons and is on pace to do so again this year. Davis is not on an island in this regard - what sets him apart is how bad he has been on top of all of the strikeouts.
When the 2018 season began, Davis sat in 66th place on baseball’s career strikeout list. A career dating back to 2008 where he has struck out in 32.1% of all of his plate appearances will do that. The 60 strikeouts Davis has picked up in the 41 games he’s played this season has moved him up to a tie for 48th place. His 1,564 career strikeouts are currently tied with Pat Burrell.
The Davis contract runs through the 2022 season and will have the O’s paying Davis through 2037. That he is performing the way he is in the third year of a seven year contract is something of a horror show for O’s fans. My way of coping with this is a morbid fascination with his march up the career strikeouts list. How high could Davis end up getting before his career ends?
Though it feels differently on days where Davis strikes out four times in a game, a run at the all-time leader, Reggie Jackson, would take some real work. Jackson’s 2,597 career strikeouts across 21 years stand alone, at least for now. This would require Davis to continue at a 200+ strikeout pace for the rest of his O’s contract and then do so for another season beyond that.
If the Orioles keep stubbornly playing Davis so much even as he persists in being the single worst player in all of baseball, he could make quite a climb. This stubbornness may be subsiding somewhat, with Davis having gotten the day off Sunday against lefty starter Eduardo Rodriguez.
A move down the batting order lower than 5th or 6th, which his poor performance certainly warrants at present, would also impact the potential raw number of strikeouts. As the contract wanes, the O’s eventually might even reach a point where they just accept the sunk cost. I think we’re at least two years away from that, no matter how bad he looks.
In the meantime, there’s also the possibility of an injury or “injury” that lets the O’s escape Davis’s hitting for a little while when he’s on the disabled list, not unlike how they’re currently escaping from Chris Tillman’s pitching.
Here are some current benchmarks on the career list:
- 40th - Derrek Lee - 1,622 strikeouts
- 30th - Lou Brock - 1,730
- 20th - Carlos Beltran - 1,795
- 10th - Mike Schmidt - 1,883
- 5th - Alex Rodriguez - 2,287
Five active players sit ahead of Davis. They are: Justin Upton (1,599 strikeouts, 43rd place), Miguel Cabrera (1,643, 39th), Adrian Beltre (1,654, 38th), Curtis Granderson (1,750, 24th), and Mark Reynolds (1,808, 18th).
As you can see from the above, now that Davis has gotten this high up the list, it’s not going to be very hard to march even higher. Upton is likely to beat him into the top 40, and Cabrera will keep compiling strikeouts at a lower rate than Davis, so Davis will probably have to get 90 more to pass Beltre and get himself onto the top 40. I take at least a top 40 finish as a given.
From that point, 200 strikeouts next year would get Davis into the top 15 and another 200 the year after that would place him in the top 6. In this hypothetical scenario, it’s still just through the 2020 season and Davis still has another two years with the O’s.
What I would really like is for Davis to return to crushing 35+ dingers annually even as he strikes out so much. That would be a fun way to experience his continuing climb up the strikeout ladder. He has just four homers this season. I won’t be holding my breath waiting for 35, or even 20.
With all of the above in mind, please vote in the below poll. If you’d like to explain your answer, or just complain about how bad Davis has been or whatever your #1 grievance about the O’s is at the moment, the comments are open below.
What is the highest place that Chris Davis will reach on the career strikeout list?
This poll is closed