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.

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8 Responses to “Chris Davis’s Oddly Historic Season So Far”

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  1. d_i says:

    He’s not qualified right now (12 PAs short), but Evan Gattis is at 15.7% as well. I’m rooting for them both, but I’ll be very surprised if either maintains anything close to this pace.

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  2. Metsox says:

    Padding his totals tonight

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  3. chasfh711 says:

    Metsox, he’s at 16.9% after his two home run night. Next in line among qualified batters: Carlos Gomez, 13.6%.

    Looking ahead to the All-Star Break, only six qualified hitters have finished the first half with more than 16.5% of his PAs resulting in XBH during the first half of the season: Babe Ruth (17.2% in 1921); Lou Gehrig (17.8% in 1927); Chick Hafey (16.7% in 1929); Chuck Klein (16.8% in 1932); Joe Medwick (17.4% in 1937); and Edgar Martinez (16.8% in 1996). That’s all of them.

    So, yeah—this could be serious.

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  4. Matty Brown says:

    Is there any empirical proof that the lack of a defined neck leads to offensive greatness in today’s baseball world?

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  5. chasfh711 says:

    Almost a month later, Chris Davis is hanging in there with 16.0%, still good for 6th on the list.

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  6. chasfh711 says:

    And I forgot to add that Davis is on pace to smash a record for the most extra base hits without a triple. He currently has 51 XBH through 77 team games, a pace that would give him 107 for the season, obliterating Mark McGwire’s 91 XBH without a three-bagger in 1998.

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  7. I did a similar article on Davis, but looking at different stats, in particular, HR/FB% and HR/PA – much like your XBH% research, Davis is doing some otherworldly things homer rate-wise. At the time of the article (6/2/13), he was at 30.2% HR/FB and 11.7 PA/HR rate. As of today 7/2/12, he’s actually improved, now hitting at a 32.6% HR/FB and 11.0 PA/HR.

    Amazing stuff.

    For those interested, you can find my article here, at Camden Depot

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  8. chasfh711 says:

    Two weeks left, and Davis has fallen out of the top ten, now sitting at 14.7% as of this morning. It’s not impossible for him to reclaim a top ten spot, as it would require 11 extra base hits in his presumably 55 remaining plate appearances for the season (i.e., 13 games left * 4.2 PA/game), a 20% rate. But to get back to where he was when I first posted this article, he’d need 21 XBH (a 38% rate), and to beat the Babe, he’d need 26 (a 47% rate) “Unlikely” is understating his chances for that.

    That said, he’s practically a lock for the consolation prize of most XBH without a triple. He’s sitting at 91 right now, tied for the record with McGwire, and unless he goes on the DL at some point before end of the month, the deal she will be done.

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