Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is enjoying a breakout season. Entering this season, nobody suspected Davis as the person standing in the way of Miguel Cabrera repeating as winner of the American League Triple Crown.
Entering games played on July 3, 2013, Cabrera led the majors with a .368 batting average. Davis trailed him by some 40 points. Davis led with 31 homers to the Tiger slugger’s 26. It’s a closer race for RBI as Cabrera leads Davis 85 to 80 runs batted in.
The Texas native finished the 2012 season, his first full season with Baltimore, with a .270 average, 33 home runs, and 85 RBI. With a .329 batting average in 2013, Davis is well on the way to obliterating those numbers and setting new career highs. His .721 slugging percentage leads the AL at the moment.
“Chris Davis’ first half of the season is the culmination of practicing and tweaking his approach to hitting, which in due course has forced opposing pitchers to throw him better pitches,” said Domenic A. Vadala, the senior editor of Fansided’s Birds Watcher. “However being one of our species’ stronger people, Davis is consistently hitting those better pitches over the fence.”
Whoa Dill coached Davis at Navarro Junior College.
“He was as good of a teammate as much as he was a great player,” said Dill. “Very funny, but intense when the game started. Everyone enjoyed him on and off the field. He really worked hard from his freshman year to his sophomore year and became a great all around player. He could always hit with power, but made a priority to become a great defensive player. I am not surprised with what he is doing. I always though if someone gave him the opportunity to play everyday he could do it. It is really awesome to see a player come from Navarro College do what he is doing this year. We have had some great players in the past, but nothing compares to this. When I bring recruits in now they all ask me about him. That is what is so awesome. I always thought he could lead the league in home runs and RBI, but the average is what I am so proud of him for right now.”
Amongst the baseball world, watching Davis this season has been very exciting.
“It’s been amazing to watch Chris Davis’ development as a hitter,” said ESPN MLB Insider Jim Bowden. “He always had the upper-deck power, but his ability to reduce his preliminary movement at the plate and take his hands from point A to point B while keeping tremendous balance with the core of his body is impressive. He now keeps his head extremely still and just drops the barrel head. He lets the ball travel to his part of the zone and his sweet spot contact is deafening. His power is to all fields and his holes at the plate have all but been eliminated. His swing also somewhat resembles that of Ken Griffey Jr., who I traded for back in 2000. No one in baseball would have expected Davis to become the main threat to Cabrera’s attempt at back to back Triple Crowns but that’s exactly what has happened. A great story in 2013 for baseball and for the Orioles.”
Bowden is not alone amongst analysts and baseball insiders.
“Look at his averages on first pitches in his career,” said MLB Network Insider Tom Verducci. “Look at that slugging percentage, he’s slugging almost .900 when he swings at the first pitch. Even though he’s increased that walk rate, he will not give you strike one.”
“Chris Davis, right now, is the best hitter in the Major Leagues—the Major League leader in weighted on-base, weighted runs created-plus, OPS and slugging,” said Brian Kenny of the MLB Network. “It is kind of stunning, but maybe we need to learn a lesson here. And the lesson is, Minor League baseball is professional baseball, just a lower level…This guy punished the Minor Leagues…Three years at Double-A, .322 [batting average], .380 [on-base percentage], .645 [slugging percentage]. [In] four years at Triple-A, .337 batting average, .397 on-base, slugging .609. [He showed an] elite batting average, good plate selection, super elite power and that is over 1,300 plate appearances in the Minors. That is not a mirage…The basic point here is Chris Davis has done that before.”
“When they got Jim Thome last year, I started thinking, ‘This is really gonna benefit him,’ because Thome is a guy that hits the ball the opposite way…Jim Thome has 600 home runs,” said MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds. “I think the benefit of being around Jim Thome has kind of helped Chris Davis have somebody that he can actually have a conversation with that understands what he’s going through, left-hander facing lefties, being able to hit that ball the opposite way and stay with it.”