We are witnessing one of those strange baseball developments that reminds us just how difficult it is to hit a ball coming at you at 92 mph with a little war club.
Chris Davis, last year’s slugging phenomenon, has been stuck below. 200 all season and although he is hitting some home runs and is driving in runs for the Baltimore Orioles, he is living the nightmare of every day gazing at a batting average lower than his weight. In fact, it isn’t even close. Davis’ listed weight is 230 pounds. His listed average, going into Wednesday’s play, was .194.
There are slumps and there are slumps, but Davis seems to be mired in the Mount Everest of slumps. In the old, pre-Internet days, fans used to write letters to players suggesting ways for them to break out of a slump. In this electronic age, Lord knows how many people are throwing out cures to Davis.
What is wrong? Certainly, by now, as the end of August approaches, it’s obvious that Davis doesn’t have any idea, though it’s a safe bet his mind doesn’t rest, even in his sleep, probing for the answer.
In 2013, Davis led the American League with 53 home runs and 138 runs batted in while batting .286 with a .370 on-base percentage. Those last two numbers weren’t bad at all considering that he also struck out 199 times. But big whiff stats are commonplace amongst big-swinging sluggers and always have been, so the strikeouts were something that came with the territory and obviously the reward out-weighed the drawback.
Not so this year. Davis has 21 home runs and 60 RBIs, somewhat miraculous positive stats given his batting average and 149 (and counting strikeouts) that have contributed to a .297 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage has dipped from .694 to .398. Wow. There are definitely some embarrassing numbers in that stat line.
Davis, the Orioles’ primary first baseman (who dabbles at third), is lucky he is still in the lineup. There are a few reasons for that. No. 1, Baltimore is in first place in the American League East, anyway, and appears to be pulling away. No. 2, Given what Davis achieved last year there is ongoing hope that he will at long last snap out of it and return to the glory days of yesteryear. No. 3, The kindness of manager Buck Showalter, who is not known for his kindness, but probably still believes in No. 2.
Who is the real Chris Davis?
Although Davis prepped for his monster 2013 season with 33 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2012, compared to the rest of his seven-year career the 2013 numbers are the ones that look like an aberration. Right now they don’t look like the real Chris Davis – too good. But neither do the 2014 numbers – too bad.
It is hard to figure out which is the real Chris Davis from this roller-coaster ride. No doubt the Orioles are wondering, too, as well as Davis himself. Davis may never hit 50 home runs in a season again, but he’d better hit higher than .200.