Superstitions and theories are fun to believe in from time to time, even though they never really determine the outcome of a single game or season for that matter. I had a superstition of my own when I was a kid. Just beyond the warehouse, outside of the stadium, there are huge metal grates that I refused to step on if I was going to a game. I also had a theory that if I ate during a game I attended when I was a kid, they would lose. I didn’t want to miss a second of the action. Call me crazy, but you can’t fault me for wanting to pay attention to every second. Not to mention save money on a $5 hot dog, even though now I’ll cram three of those bad boys down.
If anybody should buy into a theory though, it should be Chris Davis.
In the back of his mind he should know he always performs well if the year ends in an odd number. Yes, it does sound silly, and we all know it’s a total coincidence, however, just take a look at his production in odd numbered years, compared to even.
The Orioles acquired Davis via a trade with the Texas Rangers on July 30, 2011. In his first full season with the O’s in 2012, Davis played in 139 games, finishing that season with a slash line of .270/.326/.501, and he hit 33 home runs while striking out 169 times. He also picked up his first career victory as a pitcher.
In 2013, Davis led the major leagues in home runs with 53, runs batted in with 138, and total bases, 370. His batting average shot up to .286, he slugged .634, and made his first All-Star appearance in New York. That same year, he finished third in MVP voting, and won a Silver Slugger Award. His splits included a .316/.415/.728 slash line against RHP, and a .343 average with runners in scoring position. After having such a successful season at the plate, O’s fans gave him the nickname of “Crush”.
For the 2014 season, expectations were high…really high for Davis, as he was touted as one of the best home run hitters in the game, and Orioles fans wanted more out of Davis. Instead, Chris began the season by just hitting two home runs in 22 games in April, and landing on the 15-day DL with a strained oblique muscle. He hit .209 in May, .175 in June, .167 in July, and just .161 in August. Davis’ 2014 season was abruptly ended when he was suspended for 25 games for testing positive for amphetamines associated with Adderal. Chris finished with a .196 batting average, and even though 26 home runs would be huge for about 85% of other players, it failed to meet expectations for Crush.
Davis was still serving the final game of his 25-game suspension on Opening Day, so he missed out on game 1, however he did finish April with a .268 average, hitting five home runs, and an .883 OPS. Davis’ numbers were there during the summer, as he hit seven HR’s in May, and July, 10 in August, and hit .262 from June 1, through August 31. Davis re-gained the major league home run crown for 2015, as he hit 47, but he also struck out 203 times, which was more than anyone else in the major leagues. Even though the strikeouts were up, the production was back, as he finished in the top-15 in MVP voting, and hit .289 with RISP.
Crush was a free agent following the 2015 season, and it was unclear if the Orioles were going to open up the checkbook, and give Davis the money that agent Scott Boras thought he should receive. On January 21, 2016, news broke that the Orioles had struck a deal with Davis, coming to terms on a monster 7-year, $161MM contract.
In the first year of his huge contract, O’s fans saw Davis’ production drop a bit, and the strikeouts increase by 11 at the end of the season. He finished with 219, again claiming the crown for most in the majors. His average dropped significantly as well, as he finished with a .221 clip, and slugged just .459. Davis finished 2016 with 38 home runs though, which still made him a home run threat, every time he stepped to the plate.
We should all be well aware that the main concern for Chris is always his bat. I don’t know a single person that has ever been concerned with his defense at first base, as he has consistently been good. His UZR/150 for the previous three seasons has been 4.0 in 2016, 5.7 in ’15, and 3.6 in ’14. He finished with 8 DRS in 2016, and 2014, and 4 in 2015. The defense is not a concern.
For Chris Davis in 2017, he should be recovered from the thumb injury he dealt with on his left hand last season, and should be ready to come back with a strong batting average, and a lower strikeout rate. If he is going to do this, he will need to be more disciplined, and not let pitchers get the best of him. In 2016, Davis swung at 31.1% of pitches outside of the strike zone, which was just higher than the league average of 30.6%, and swung at 59.6% of pitches inside the strike zone, which was down from the league average of 63.9%.
Orioles fans shouldn’t fret though. Davis plays well during odd numbered years, and for once, you may be able to buy into a theory that just may be proven true.