It’s no secret that Chris Davis has been having an awful 2017 campaign. Other than a couple few-game stretches where he got hot, he’s been abysmal, driving O’s fans crazy with his constant strikeouts (far too many of which come with him never taking the bat off his shoulder). He is striking out in 38% of his at-bats, over 6% above his career average. His 109 wRC+ would be his second-lowest as an Oriole, better than only his somehow-even-worse 2014 campaign.
So yeah, Davis hasn’t been good.
But what makes things even more frustrating, at least for this Orioles fan, is that Davis never seems to make any adjustments to his approach. His stance is the same. He keeps using a bat the size of a large tree branch (which, if I remember correctly, he learned to do from Jim Thome back in 2012). He seemingly makes zero effort to fight off pitches with two strikes, or to exploit the shift that teams employ against him.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then perhaps Davis’ locker should be moved from Oriole Park at Camden Yards to Sheppard Pratt Hospital.
Last night though, a glimmer of hope.
Here is Davis getting ready to hit a couple weeks ago against Detroit:
And now, last night:
The difference is subtle, but it’s there. His stance is noticeably more closed in the second photo. Here, let’s take a look at another from a recent home game, to account for the difference in CF camera angle between the two stadiums.
Ok, now it’s more obvious, right? His right foot is definitely further from the plate in the older photo, resulting in a more open stance. Last night, he had closed things up significantly.
Regardless of whether or not this new stance works out for him, I give the adjustment two thumbs up. While I don’t expect Davis to be Cal Ripken Jr. up there trying out every ridiculous stance in the book, it’s nice to see him accepting that something is broke, and thus needs fixing.
Cal Ripken's game streak began 35 years ago today. His batting avg for each stance pic.twitter.com/cvV5pVshxo
— Batting Stance Guy (@BattingStanceG) May 30, 2017
That wasn’t the only change Davis appeared to make last night, however. In his four at-bats, he swung at the first pitch twice. For those of us used to watching Davis simply stand idly by as he falls down in the count 0-1 (then fouling off strike two before watching strike three), this also came as a breath of fresh air. While there are plenty of Orioles who we’d like to see be LESS aggressive at the dish, especially early in counts, Davis’ career-low Z-swing% of 56.1% suggests that he could certainly benefit by ambushing some of these pitchers who think they can just throw any get-me-over pitch early in the count to get ahead of him.
Right now, Davis is walking 12.5% of the time, the same clip at which he did so in 2015, when he swung at 67.8% of the strikes he saw. This suggests that he can certainly stand to swing at a few more strikes and still get on base via the free pass at an acceptable clip.
No longer can I complain about Davis not making any adjustments. If the results don’t come, I’ll certainly still find something to moan about there, but at least it’s now obvious that he’s trying new things out.
So, how were the early results?
Last night, for the first time since May 14, Davis did NOT strike out, breaking a streak of 14 consecutive games with a K.
Will the adjustment help over the long term? Of course, only time will tell. I’m resigned to the fact that Davis is now just Chris, The Artist Formerly Known as Crush. But if he can get that wRC+ back up in the 140 range of 2015, it will go a long way to helping this team get back on the winning track.
Here’s hoping these adjustments go a long way toward doing just that.
— Matt Perison (@matt_perison) June 1, 2017
(Hat tip to Matt Perison for pointing this out)