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Chris Davis and His Pillars

Chris Davis was the bane of my fantasy teams for a couple of years. After breaking out in 2008 with 17 home runs in 80 games, he was my ace-in-the-hole of draft/auction day. The results were horrible. Once I finally swore to never pick him up again, he had a comeback season with the Orioles. With such an uneven past, it will be tough to get a read on his potential 2013 season.

The fantasy value of Chris Davis lives of the edge of relevancy because of three traits, a high number strikeouts, good power and a high BABIP. In some seasons, one or more of these traits destroyed his value. In his first season (2008), none were an issue and he thrived. In 2009, the strikeout rate jumped and his batting average plummeted. In 2010, both his power and BABIP dropped. In 2011 his power was down. Finally in 2012, all three aligned again and he had a decent season. I am going to look into each of these three areas and see what benchmarks he needs to reach category for a repeat of 2012.

Strikeouts

Davis is a strikeout machine with a career average north of 30%. In each of his five seasons, he has been near this mark except in 2009 when it jumped to 36%. A fantasy owner may care very little if the K% is above 30%, but at that level, a team begins to look for other options and his playing time may be put in jeopardy. While 30% is not ideal, it is the K% his owner doesn’t want him to go over. His owners in early 2013, may want to compare is K% to his estimated K% to see if he is near the 30% level. If he is heading north of 30%, stay away. Under 30%, his value will increase.

Home Run Power

Davis has always been able to hit the long ball. Here are his career power numbers.

Year: HR/FB, Batted ball distance (HR&FB)
2008: 21%, 307 ft
2009: 19%, 313 ft
2010: 3%, 285 ft
2011: 10%, 293 ft
2012: 25%, 299 ft
Career: 19%, 303 ft

The career values are the benchmarks for a good season or not.

The 2012 value looks a bit out of place with a sub 300 ft distance and the highest HR/FB rate. The key for the higher HR rate is that he began pulling the ball more. Here is a graph of the trajectory from home plate of all of his HRs and flyballs. (-45 degrees is a ball hit along the left field line and +45 is a ball of the right field line.)

In 2012, he was pulling the ball more than anytime in his career. By pulling the ball, he was able to take advantage of the short fences in right field corners.

BABIP

With the high K%, Davis has to maintain a high BABIP or else his AVG will be too much of a drag on his fantasy value. Here is how his BABIP has compared to his xBABIP over the years

Season: BABIP, xBABIP
2008: 0.351, 0.347
2009: 0.324, 0.318
2010: 0.275, 0.303
2011: 0.366, 0.338
2012: 0.335, 0.322

He has been able to maintain good BABIP over the years to keep his AVG above .250. In 2010, when his BABIP dropped to 0.275, his AVG plummeted to .192. Not good. To get an idea of a desirable BABIP value, here is what his average would be with a 6.5 BB%, 30% K%, 30 HRs in 600 PA with varying BABIPs:

BABIP: AVG
0.350: 0.272
0.340: 0.266
0.330: 0.260
0.320: 0.254
0.310: 0.247
0.300: 0.241

I aim for all may fantasy player to have a AVG of at least 0.250. A BABIP of .320 will be needed to keep him fantasy relevant. Again, if an evaluation of his BABIP is needed early in the season, feel free to use our xBABIP spreadsheet.

The fantasy value of Chris Davis hinges on his power, strikeouts and BABIP. If any of these values exceed the benchmarks in the wrong direction, he will have little fantasy value. Davis has always been a roll of the dice and next season is no different.

Batted ball distance is from baseballheatmaps.com.