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Chris Davis’s Oddly Historic Season So Far

A lot of ink (and pixels) have been spilled about Chris Davis’ great season.  It’s hard to overstate just how great a .337/.432/.721 start through roughly one-third of the season is, especially in this renewed era of depressed offense.  MLB’s .722 OPS this year so far ranks it as Baseball’s second-lowest since 1992’s .700.  (2011 = .720)  Quite straight, Davis is having the best offensive season in the American League of any player whose first name is not some variation of “Michael”.

Here’s yet another data point for you to chew on: Chris Davis is on track to have one of the highest extra-base hit (XBH) to plate appearance (PA) ratios in history.

As of the morning of Memorial Day 2013, Davis has hit an XBH in 16.5% of his PAs.  In conversational terms, he hits an XBH about every six times he steps to the plate.

If Davis were to end the season with this ratio and qualify for a batting championship, it would rank second in history behind this other guy’s pretty good season.

In fact, only nine qualified players in modern history have ever had an XBH-PA ratio of greater than 15% over the course of an entire season.  Here is the list, with Davis’s 2013 added for context:

Rk Player Year XBH PA XBH %
1 Babe Ruth 1921 119 693 17.2%
2 Chris Davis 2013 34 206 16.5%
3 Albert Belle 1995 103 631 16.3%
4 Lou Gehrig 1927 117 717 16.3%
5 Barry Bonds 2001 107 664 16.1%
6 Babe Ruth 1920 99 616 16.1%
7 Jeff Bagwell 1994 73 479 15.2%
8 Al Simmons 1930 93 611 15.2%
9 Albert Belle 1994 73 480 15.2%
10 Todd Helton 2001 105 697 15.1%

You may have noticed that 30% of the players on this list are named either Al or Albert, but none of them are named Pujols.  None of them are named Miguel, either.  In fact, the closest the reigning American League Triple Crown winner has come to cracking this list was in 2010 with a 13.0% XBH-PA ratio, and as of this morning he sits well out of range in 2013 at 12.5%, despite his own empirically otherworldly start.

This is, without a doubt, a most exclusive list of a most consistently slugging nature.  It’s enough to send pitchers into grand mal seizures at the very contemplation of this.  Or perhaps more exactly, it might if they were even aware of it.  This data point has probably not yet been illuminated in quite this way—this here article is the closest I myself have found so far, and Davis is not even the star of the piece.  But that does not mitigate the impressiveness of this feat of his so far.

This is not to say that Chris Davis is a better hitter than Miguel Cabrera, or Albert Pujols or Joey Votto or even Shin Soo Choo, for that matter.  But even if this does turn out to be a world class-level fluke season for him, Davis has a chance to crack an elite list inhabited only by the greatest of the great, even if he never knows it.