Prior to the 2013 season, Chris Davis had taken his cuts from the cleanup spot in the lineup just eleven times. He went 5-for-10, with one walk, and one home run. As the years progressed, Davis had more, and more plate appearances batting cleanup, mainly because of his home run capability, and to protect the number two, and three batters in the lineup.
Beginning on April 26, 2013, Davis began seeing more time, sporadically, in the cleanup role for the Orioles, but didn’t fare anywhere near as well as he did when batting fifth. For Davis batting cleanup, he hit .207, with an OBP of .267, and a slugging percentage of .478, with just seven HR’s. Compare that to his numbers when batting fifth, at .325/.401/.724 with 38 home runs, on his way to his record breaking 53 to complete the season.
Speaking of comparing numbers, if you take a look at Davis’ total numbers batting cleanup, versus his numbers batting fifth, you’ll see that it may not be in the Orioles’ best interest to have him batting cleanup in 2017.
In 1,096 plate appearances batting cleanup, Davis has slashed .228/.335/.504, with 73 HR’s, 177 RBI’s, and a whopping 355 strikeouts. Compare that to his numbers batting fifth, with 997 plate appearances, and a slash line of .267/.347/.571, with 70 HR’s, and 171 RBI’s. Albeit high, Davis only has 296 strikeouts from the five-hole.
Batting fifth, since 2015, Davis’ strikeout rate has also diminished, with him striking out just 27.6% of the time in 2015, and 28.6% of the time in 2016. When he hit cleanup, his strikeout rate increased to 31.8% of the time in 2015, and 34.1% of the time in 2016. In regards to balls put in play, his BABIP last season was also higher batting fifth, than cleanup.
BABIP stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play, and Davis’ was .258 batting cleanup, and .311 batting fifth.
Statistics show that Davis may be better suited to bat fifth, but why is it a good idea to hit him cleanup?
Let’s just look at guys that hit in the three-hole last season. Not counting Davis, of course, thirteen different players hit third in a Buck Showalter lineup in 2016, and those guys benefited highly from the presence of Chris Davis behind them. For example, guys batting third went 190-420, which comes out to be a .452 batting average, and also walloped 25 HR’s.
That’s what I’d call productivity.
It’s very easy to see why you wouldn’t want Chris Davis as your cleanup hitter, rather, your fifth place hitter. Those strikeouts just seem to pile up higher, and higher, each season. He did lead the majors in strikeouts in 2015 (208), and 2016 (219). Not to mention his wOBA (weighted on-base average) last season decreased by .34 points going from fifth to fourth in the lineup.
With the core of the team returning for 2017, the lineup could look very similar to the lineups produced in 2016. The only question is, where is Chris Davis going to fit, and how well is he going to perform in that spot? Of course, the placing of Davis in the lineup could be affected heavily if the Orioles re-sign Mark Trumbo, however, once (if) that occurs, I’m sure we’ll all begin the speculations of true lineup placing then. Right?