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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where Chris Davis is still trying to bounce back

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It’s that familiar time of spring where Chris Davis reports to camp and vows to improve. Maybe one of these years it’ll actually happen.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

The Orioles held their first full-team workout in Sarasota yesterday, which offered reporters the first chance to speak to Chris Davis since he arrived at camp Sunday. Davis, coming off a 2019 season in which he batted .179 with a .601 OPS, 12 homers, and 36 RBIs — and set an MLB record with 54 straight hitless at-bats, dating back to 2018 — said he’s put in the work to improve this winter and is optimistic he’ll improve this season.

“I think (the offseason) went really well. I feel like I’m back to my old self. I think obviously once the games start, there’s still a lot of things that I want to implement, a lot of things I want to do, but I feel really good about this offseason. I really do.”

Oh! Wait. That quote is actually from 2018 spring training, in which Davis was coming off a .215 average, .732 OPS, 26 homers and 61 RBIs the previous season — numbers that O’s fans would kill to see from him now.

As for this year, Davis says:

“I think hearing a few different voices this offseason and doing some things a little bit different, one, it helped me realize I wasn’t as far away as I thought I was, and two, that the player that was productive and successful in the past has not gone. He didn’t disappear. He’s still here, and I think as far as my swing is concerned, I feel that I’m that player right now.”

Whoops. My mistake, again. That quote was from last February, when Davis was coming off a 2018 season in which he set an MLB record for the lowest batting average (.168) by a qualifying hitter.

Anyway, this year, Davis recognizes what he was doing wrong at the plate, and how he’s going to use analytics to change his approach:

“I think it was completely mental. ... There were too many called third strikes. There were too many called first strikes. There were too many times when I was starting the at-bat 0-2 and hadn’t even swung the bat, hadn’t taken the bat off my shoulder. That’s just not who I am as a hitter. It never has been.”

“There were definitely things that I learned about my swing, just about angles, things that I’ve done over the past few years that have helped me to be successful, but that I haven’t been able to do consistently, and I feel like I’m in a good place right now.”

Ack, I did it again. That first quote is from 2018 and the second is from 2019.

All right, I think I’ve hammered home this point quite enough. If you’re looking for Davis’ actual quotes from yesterday, MASN’s Roch Kubatko has the complete transcript of the interview, in which Davis again expresses some optimism that he can get back to being the hitter he used to be.

I don’t mean to pick on Davis for trying to keep a positive attitude. I’m glad he’s coming into camp with a rosy outlook and a desire to improve. But the same was true last year, and the year before, and, well, he never actually did improve. His offensive performance has only gotten worse with each passing year, descending to historically abysmal levels. Davis may be saying all the right things in spring training, but the words haven’t translated into his on-field performance.

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe this is finally the year that his spring optimism will prove to be well-founded once the season rolls around. You’ll have to excuse me, though, if I’m a bit skeptical.

Links

Hyde on Davis: “I thought he looked great” - School of Roch
For what it’s worth, Brandon Hyde was pleased by what he saw in Davis’ first workout. But I feel like I could go back to 2018 and 2019 to find similarly optimistic comments from Davis’ managers in spring. Don’t tempt me, I’ll do it!

Connolly: Chris Davis might be a step closer to walking away, but expect him to remain with the 2020 Orioles – The Athletic
Among the notable nuggets in Davis’ interview yesterday was his admission that he considered walking away from the game this winter but decided to return. I get it. I wouldn’t walk away from $93 million either, nor should anyone feel obligated to.

Manfred sees ‘a good future’ in Baltimore - Orioles.com
I would feel more confident about that comment if it came from anyone other than Rob Manfred, who has gotten basically everything wrong lately.

A take on the proposed new MLB playoff format - Steve Melewski
Speaking of Manfred getting everything wrong, his proposed changes to the MLB playoffs are a debacle. Steve Melewski explains some of the reasons why, including the lamentable fact that several sub-.500 clubs would've made the postseason the last few years under the new format.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! If you’re down in Sarasota for spring training, pass along some birthday greetings to O’s prospect Ryan Mountcastle. The defending International League MVP turns 23 today. Former Orioles born on this day include 2009 catcher Chad Moeller (45) and the late Walter Young and Jeff McKnight. Young and McKnight both died in 2015 at the ages of 35 and 52, respectively.

On this day in 1954, the inaugural Baltimore Orioles made a trade before they’d even played a game in their new hometown, acquiring Gil Coan from the Washington Senators for Roy Sievers. Coan collected the first hit in Orioles history with a first-inning single in Detroit on April 13, 1954. He passed away just two weeks ago at age 97; he had been the third-oldest living former MLBer.