Following up on a season in which Chris Davis hit .286/.370/.634, won the Silver Slugger Award, finished third in MVP voting, and smashed a MLB-leading 53 home runs and 138 RBI was going to be difficult. No one expected a repeat performance. However, no one expected this type of regression, either.
In 2014, Davis has been a liability at the plate when he used to be one of the Orioles’ biggest assets. We knew he had the potential to be an all-or-nothing type of batter, but we didn’t know that “nothing” meant a sub-.200 batting average while still leading the team in strikeouts and placing ninth on the team in slugging percentage.
That’s not the Chris Davis we fell in love with last year. It’s not even the extremely solid .270/.326/.501 power hitter he was in 2012.
No, this is a new Chris Davis. A, dare I say, bad Chris Davis. And because of that, it’s also a Chris Davis who deserves to see the field less.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter always expresses patience with his players — often saying that if they can play defense, he’ll wait for the bat to come around.
Chris Davis can play defense. This year, he’s posted his highest fielding percentage ever as a first baseman — a gold glove potential .997. His big frame and uncanny ability to stretch and scoop balls in the dirt provides a forgiving target for Orioles infielders.
But the time has come to lessen the impact of Davis’ struggles. The Orioles have other options at first base in Steve Pearce and Nick Markakis. Putting Pearce or Markakis at first allows the hot-hitting Delmon Young to see the field in a corner outfield position and improves the Orioles’ offense. The offensive improvement Young brings overcomes the advantage Davis holds over the other first base options on defense.
Davis has hit .193/.267/.376 vs. left-handed pitching this year. Meanwhile, Young has hit .255/.255/.400 against lefties this year and holds a .301/.337/.467 career average against them.
When the Orioles face a lefty, it presents the best opportunity to get Davis out of the lineup and give Young a few more at-bats.
Until the Orioles are confident that Davis can get back to where he was in 2012 or 2013, other players give the team a better chance to win than he does. With the Orioles only 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East, every at-bat counts. When Chris Davis is up, Baltimore is giving away those precious at-bats in hopes that the Davis of yesteryear reverses a trend that has gone on far too long.