Much has been made of Chris Davis’ unbelievable fall from grace. Most fans are aware of the tumbling batting average, the declining power and the rising strikeout numbers.
Many Oriole fans have held out hope that eventually Davis’ shirt will tear, his skin will turn green and The Incredible Hulk we saw from 2012-2015 will return, leaving the current Bruce Banner in the rear view mirror.
Fans, sportswriters and baseball experts have all speculated as to what has happened to the former slugger who, during the aforementioned four season span, averaged 40 home runs and 103 RBI, while batting .256 have speculated as what caused this amazing fall from grace.
Could it be that Davis needs glasses? Maybe it was the lack of ADHD medication that Davis was suspended for in 2014. Maybe it was because he stopped chewing tobacco, or maybe it was because he was chewing too much.
Whatever the reason may be, Davis has not been able to identify and correct it. Since 2018, per 500 at-bats, Davis has averaged 17 home runs, 52 RBI and a .171 batting average.
Hope that Davis will magically discover his former stroke faded to wishes for the occasional clutch hit. Those hopes and wishes have turned to anger each time Davis, and his $23 million salary, are penciled into the lineup, especially when you realize Davis’ $161 million contract is more than contracts for players such as José Altuve, Freddie Freeman and Mike Trout.
While the Orioles have been reluctant to completely bench Davis or release him outright, manager Brandon Hyde has limited his at-bats, often benching Davis against righties.
A deeper look into, not only how often Davis is making contact, but how he is making contact shows some very troubling trends. Davis is simply not hitting the ball hard and these days is more likely to ground out than strikeout.
Exit Velocity measures the speed of the baseball as it comes off the bat, immediately after a batter makes contact. Sluggers like Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo average an exit velocity of over 96 mph. There was a time that Davis averaged 92; however, that number has steadily dropped over the years:
2015 – 92.1
2016 – 91.1
2017 – 90.1
2018 – 89.3
2019 – 89.1
2020 – 85.1
The Barrel classification is assigned to batted-ball events, whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015. Again, we see Davis’ continue decline:
2015 – 17.5
2016 – 15.1
2017 – 12.8
2018 – 10.3
2019 – 10.5
2020 – 3.1
For comparison, Miguel Sanó, Mitch Moreland and Jorge Soler all have a current barrel percentage over 22.
Launch Angle represents the vertical angle at which the ball leaves a player’s bat after being struck. Nolan Arenado and Joey Gallo have launch angles over 26. Davis:
2015 – 17.5
2016 – 17.2
2017 – 14.8
2018 – 15.1
2019 – 14.1
2020 – 3.7
Fly Ball Percentage:
Chris Davis was signed to hit home runs. The only way to do so is to hit the ball in the air. Unfortunately, Davis’ fly balls have become more and more rare over the years.
2015 – 43.5
2016 – 43.7
2017 – 39.8
2018 – 39.3
2019 – 38.6
2020 – 31.3
Only time will tell what the Orioles decide to do with Davis; however, one thing is abundantly clear. The 2013 Incredible Hulk version is not coming back.