Chris Davis Is Hitting Everything

The Orioles scored 20 runs in their 2-1 series victory over the Rays this week. Chris Davis drove in 11 himself and scored four more. His .971 wOBA — 7-for-11, three home runs, three doubles, a walk and a hit by pitch in 13 plate appearances — through the season’s first three games gives him the league lead (Tyler Flowers‘s .816 checks in at second place).

Davis now has 10 home runs through his last 10 regular season games — he hit seven home runs in games 156 through 161 last season before an oh-fer in the finale. Davis has kept his fire burning strong by mashing more than just mistake pitches. The Rays attacked the one point in the strike zone he doesn’t mash — the lower-outside corner. And that’s the most impressive part of Davis’s series — even when Rays pitchers hit their spots, Davis was able to not just make contact, but blast those pitches for doubles and home runs.

Davis’s power has never been in question. Even in his limited exposure with the Rangers — 953 plate appearances over parts of four seasons — Davis hit 42 home runs and posted a .197 ISO. Of his 219 hits, 95 (43.3 percent) went for extra bases. He just didn’t make contact. It was more of the same with Baltimore last year — he struck out 30.1 percent of the time and posted a .231 ISO with 33 home runs in 562 plate appearances — it was just the first time a team let him do it on a full-time basis.

Davis hardly has any weaknesses in the strike zone. Break the strike zone into a 3-by-3 grid and Davis posted a .297 ISO or better in seven of the nine zones, according to Baseball Prospectus. The only ones he didn’t were down-and-away (.133 in 45 at-bats) and up-and-in (.067 in 15 at-bats). So where are you going to attack?

The Rays made a point all series of attacking Chris Davis either down, away or both.

raysvsdavis

Graphic from catcher’s viewpoint

Part of the plan was a matter of pitching styles. All three Rays starters — David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Roberto Hernandez — primarily throw ground balls, and Price and Hernandez were both over a 50 percent ground ball rate last season. Price is the only one with a fastball suited for high cheese — and indeed, he did go upstairs a few times to Davis and induced a pair of swinging strikes. Hellickson and Hernandez, though, feed most lefties a steady diet of low-and-away changeups and sinkers, and the approach with Davis wasn’t much different.

The biggest clusters come mid-height and just outside the strike zone as well as in the lower-outside corner. Considering the propensity for umpires to give the outside strike against lefties, these are two generally safe areas to attack Davis for strikes. His ISO in both zones is relatively low — .072 and .198 career, respectively. He swings often — over 60 percent of the time on over 100 pitches in each zone last year — and he whiffs roughly 20 percent of the time.

Davis’s most impressive hits of the series came from these zones. On Tuesday, Davis crushed this pitch from Hellickson for a 422 foot home run to left field:

davishrhellickson

The pitch finished some 5.5 inches off the physical plate and about 2.1 inches outside the outer edge of the rulebook strike zone, and yet Davis absolutely hammered it.

Yesterday, Davis lined this pitch from Hernandez into left field for a two-run double:

davis2bhernandez

Davis didn’t get much lift on the 91 MPH sinker, but he hit it like a bullet, with enough speed to split the outfielders and get to the wall for a double and score a runner from first.

Surprisingly, the Rays didn’t attack Davis much up in the zone or above the zone, as these are the areas where he’s been supremely whiff-prone. For his career, Davis has missed on over 50 percent of his above-zone swings (95-for-184). Davis only saw five pitches above the zone from Rays pitchers this week, and true to form he swung through two of them. But he only swung and missed four total times on 48 pitches for an 8.3 percent swinging strike rate, exactly half his 16.6 percent career rate.

Of course, Davis will almost certainly start swinging and missing more — although the age 27 season is often a breakout year for players, it’s hard to imagine Davis slashing his whiff rate in half in even the rosiest scenario. Even his 90th percentile PECOTA projection includes a 28.2 percent strikeout rate.

But the remarkable nature of Davis’s series was two-fold: not only was he making contact with these tough pitches, he was hitting them with great power, something usually reserved for pitches over the plate. This is what I’ll be watching for with Davis as he carries his hot streak back to Camden Yards to face Minnesota this weekend and beyond. Davis has already shown exceptional power even during the darkest stretches of his career. If he can extend his power zones even further out, by taking advantage of outside pitches with opposite field power, he’ll become an even bigger headache then the already-formidable one he was in 2012.



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Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.


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GiveEmTheBird
Guest
GiveEmTheBird
3 years 5 months ago

Thanks for this, it’s going to make today’s game even more fun to watch. Great article.

GiveEmTheBird
Guest
GiveEmTheBird
3 years 5 months ago

And it was!

jmpmk2
Guest
jmpmk2
3 years 5 months ago

Zips projection for 2013: 0.9 WAR
Davis through three games: 0.8 WAR

jsolid
Guest
jsolid
3 years 5 months ago

wow on that.

Blue
Guest
Blue
3 years 5 months ago

He had a pretty solid Pecota projection, at least for 5×5 roto purposes.

BalkingHeads
Member
BalkingHeads
3 years 5 months ago

Big fan of the constellatory graphic. His homers were 422, 422 and 396 feet.

Majesty
Guest
Majesty
3 years 5 months ago

I was looking at the photo of Davis posted on Yahoo’s sports portal (tweeted from Davis and including him, his biceps, and a chimp) this morning. The friend has a bodybuilding past and insisted that Davis has grown beyond what is at all possible without the use of drugs. He argues that there has never been a human with that size and low body fat percentage who got that way drug assistance.

GoToWarMissAgnes
Guest
GoToWarMissAgnes
3 years 5 months ago

Well, I guess if your friend with a bodybuilding past said it, it must be true. Davis obviously uses steroids. Great investigative journalism work. Thanks for outing this cheater and tarnishing his good name.

El Vigilante
Guest
El Vigilante
3 years 5 months ago

So now one photo of a player holding a chimp isn’t enough evidence to prove PED usage?

rustydude
Member
rustydude
3 years 5 months ago

Wait a minute, is the chimp on PED’s or Davis?

Sparkles Peterson
Guest
Sparkles Peterson
3 years 5 months ago

I’m curious. Have you looked at pictures of the guy?

Because, yeah, it would be about a millionth as surprising as the revelation that Clay Aiken was gay.

El Vigilante
Guest
El Vigilante
3 years 5 months ago

All strong people are on drugs!

Hayves
Guest
Hayves
3 years 5 months ago

Your friend is an idiot. Step foot into any gym and there are 5 guys with bigger arms than that who haven’t done it using steroids.

Bryan
Guest
Bryan
3 years 5 months ago

Yes, but apparently any who lift weights is “associated” with doping, and therefore guilty-ish, which is good enough.

R
Guest
R
3 years 5 months ago

Uh, Chris Davis isn’t even that big. You can tell that you and your friend have never even stepped foot inside a gym. You are both two complete idiots.

Birdlander
Guest
Birdlander
3 years 5 months ago

I consulted with steroids this afternoon and steroids had this to say, “At this moment, I’m just trying to get my hands on some Chris Davis to beef up.”

Chimps Ahoy
Guest
Chimps Ahoy
3 years 5 months ago

You’ve convinced me. I’m sure your friend comes in handy, identifying chimpanzees, steroid users, and giving you the inside scoop.

OsandBohs
Guest
OsandBohs
3 years 5 months ago

Learn to put a sentence together and more people might believe your blind accusations and anecdotal evidence. Numbskull.

Sparkles Peterson
Guest
Sparkles Peterson
3 years 5 months ago

“Chris Davis” player link in the first paragraph actually links right back to this page.

Brad
Guest
Brad
3 years 5 months ago

How can you go 10 HR’s in last ten regular season games then say “he hit seven home runs in games 156 through 161 last season before an oh-fer in the finale”?

Am I missing something?

Brad
Guest
Brad
3 years 5 months ago

Yep. I am missreading. Took it to mean HR in 10 consecutive games instead of over that span.

davecannamore
Member
davecannamore
3 years 5 months ago

He’s counting the three homers in the series with the rays. Seven homers last year, three so far this year.

glib
Guest
glib
3 years 5 months ago

Obviously when we see these kinds of power breakouts we all think wheaties, whether we say it or not. But the strike rate far below PECOTA, that’s hitting skills.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 5 months ago

Wheaties help in far more areas than just power (speed, eye-hand coordination, quick twitch muscle reflex, recovery time, etc.). Read up on the subject rather than spreading ignorance (or in this case – read the side of the cereal box)

Sports which have had far more rigorous testing (like olympic sports) still have considerable wheaties usage so it is likely that there are still many major league players who use wheaties for an edge despite the consequences. Whether Chris Davis is one – it’s worth looking into, but not worth accusing. Perhaps he will one day be placed on the front of the box and we will know for sure.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 5 months ago

But what about Mike Morse starting the season 4 homers in 4 games?

NatKingCole
Guest
NatKingCole
3 years 5 months ago

Aha

redsox1
Member
redsox1
3 years 5 months ago

My friend told me Morse is secretly taking photos with chimps.

Rob0T
Guest
Rob0T
3 years 5 months ago

HA!

farrpar
Guest
farrpar
3 years 5 months ago

The GS he hit today was an off-the-plate slider down and away on the 1st pitch of the AB from a lefty. Sick! He has the most effortless power in baseball, no doubt about it. I can’t believe I waited until the 14th round to snag him in my 12-team H2H points league…sure glad now he was still there.

O
Guest
O
3 years 5 months ago

So what’s his war after 4 games?

65Kyle08
Member
65Kyle08
3 years 5 months ago

.8
Incredible

Cybo
Member
Cybo
3 years 5 months ago

He hasn’t hit anything since this article! Dag nab it!!

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