Who would play first base for the 2013 Orioles? Remember that question at the end of last season and for some time following? Orioles’ comment boards were lit up with concerns – particularly about not securing Mark Reynolds as a free agent.
That all seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it?
Nine weeks into the 2013 regular season, Orioles fans are content to have Chris Davis at first base. And why not? Some statistics out there have indicated that he has been the only left-handed batter other than Babe Ruth to have accomplished certain feats in the opening two months of a season! I’d say that is rare praise!
This is not a bash Mark Reynolds article. You can Google search my name and Reynolds’ name and probably come up with a few negative columns from my baseball writing past. Yet at the same time, I was less vitriolic than most, embraced him sooner than others (strikeouts and all), and as early as anyone out there called for him to be moved to first base. It was his play at third that drove me to the keyboards with smoking hot fingers!
But it is interesting at this point to go to a sortable database (such as our Birds Watcher and Fansided Network friends at www.baseball-reference.com) and compare the stats between the two players.
May 24, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) watches his solo home run in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Orioles beat the Blue Jays 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
I began doing this by looking to see how many times Mark Reynolds has struck out this year. And sure enough, their names were next to each other. Reynolds is currently 6th in the AL by having fanned 68 times this year, while Davis is tied for 7th with 65.
The home run difference is probably the most visible to the majority of fans, where Davis has 20 (one per 11.3 at bats) to Reynolds’ 13 (one per 16.1), along with a similar RBI lead of 52 compared to 41.
A very glaring difference is in average / on base percentage / slugging / and on-base + slugging … with Davis at .338/.415/.693/1.109 as compared to Reynolds’ .239/.322/.459/.782.
Maybe it seems unfair to consider only the first 62-63 games of this one season where Davis is putting up insane numbers. Well, the topic of this piece is to think about how the first base decision for the Orioles has worked out since that decision was made, and that is what these numbers reflect. Can Davis sustain this? Probably not quite at this level, no. Will Reynolds continue as he has thus far? That is far more likely to be a reality, especially since he is batting .188 over the past 30 days!
But what about in the field? That was a big part of the concern of Orioles fans … seeing how truly well Reynolds played at first base last year. The Indians have used Reynolds at third base for 29 games where he predictably has four errors and a .918 fielding average, while he has played 21 games at first base with two errors at .985 (also serving as the DH in 13 games). Davis has also committed two errors at first base, though he has played 62 games at that position with a fielding percentage of .996. That is more than acceptable!
I really like Mark Reynolds and wish him well – may it be that he hits 25 homers this year against the other four teams in the AL East! He was a great teammate and very obviously an extremely fine person. He was simply going to be more expensive to keep than the alternatives available to the Orioles. Both players are always going to be streak hitters, but it certainly appears that this goes down on Dan Duquette’s tally sheet as another wise decision.