It’s been five years since Chris Davis has had a season that could be called anything other than a failure. Despite this, there has been a pattern through multiple seasons of Davis not doing anything different to try to adjust his mechanics and break out of that rut.
Finally, in 2021, this pattern has been interrupted. Davis spoke to Orioles beat writers over Zoom on Friday afternoon and addressed his offseason work:
I did some things differently. You’ll be able to see it. It will be visible to the naked eye. I’m excited about it. I have done substantial work to step outside my comfort zone and change some things.
Davis did not elaborate on what those changes are. Due to ongoing pandemic-related precautions, reporters have not had the typical access to batting practice and other early spring workouts, so they remain something of a mystery for the time being.
Games do begin on Sunday, but the Orioles spring broadcast schedule announced on Friday did not include any MASN telecasts, only radio. Less than half of the games will be on Orioles radio. Spring training crowds will be limited to 25% capacity, so most people will have to take his word for it until the regular season rolls around.
One person who’s been seeing Davis up close is manager Brandon Hyde. In his Friday availability to reporters, he confirmed Davis is set up differently at the plate. I won’t get my hopes up that this will end up amounting to anything, but it is, at least, different than the usual tune we’ve been hearing from Davis.
Indeed, it was only about two months ago that Davis talked about his offseason work so far and said that he hadn’t been doing much, because he felt that he had been grinding too hard in recent offseasons and that this had a negative impact on his ability to play. That was not a quote that inspired much belief in me that he was going to put in any effort to try to do anything different mechanically.
In spring training three years ago, Davis did talk about having done a lot of work with then-hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh. This was later called into question by Jim Palmer on a MASN broadcast, who said that Coolbaugh didn’t indicate having done any significant work with Davis.
At that time, it was a lack of seeing any change that set off Palmer’s critique: “ ... you’ve got to make some adjustments. I don’t see anything. I don’t see a wider stance, I don’t see a closed stance, I don’t see him dropping my hands. I don’t see anything.” Part of Davis’s response to this particular criticism was to change his stance for all of about one game before going back to whatever he had been doing.
It would have been nice to hear some proactive change three years ago, when it might have made more of a difference and saved a lot of frustration. We’ll see how long this new-look Davis sticks around and whether that translates into performance that makes anyone change their thought about Davis to something more positive than wanting him to have been banished from the roster years ago.