Chris Davis – Not On Steroids

Let me start by saying that I was stoked to have the Orioles shown on national television all weekend.  I was at the yard on Friday night sitting out in the center field bleachers, right above where Manny Machado’s 6th inning double fell.  The O’s took it to the Yankees and CC Sabathia, and had two days of focused attention ahead of them.

Saturday saw the O’s obliterate the Yanks by the score of 11-3 on FOX, while Sunday Night Baseball came to town last night for the final blow, a 4-2 win to complete the three game sweep.  Topics on hand for both crews were Brian Roberts’ return, Chris Tillman’s 19-5 record since his call up in July of last year, and Manny Machado’s spectacular innings streak that came to an end this past week.

Chris DavisThe most pressing topic, however, was Chris Davis and his miraculous turnaround in Baltimore from his slower seasons in Texas.  Davis had no trouble backing up the talks, as he belted a three run shot out to left center in the first inning followed by another bomb in the sixth.  Davis kept it going on Sunday with a solo blast off of Hiroki Kuroda on a 90 MPH splitter that he placed in the left field seats.

Amid the positive discussions of Davis, now at 31 home runs in 2013 still before the All Star break, were mentions that he is on pace to break Brady Anderson’s team record of 50 home runs in a season and quite possibly the American League record of 61 home runs in a season held by Roger Maris.

On the down side, the national attention also brought a lot of very negative feedback from fans outside of Baltimore (and even some living here): Chris Davis must be on steroids.

A simple search on Twitter for the query “Chris Davis steroids” brings up a slew of tweets from baseball fans worldwide over the past few days with blatant accusations that Davis must be juicing.  Things like “It’s time to test Chris Davis for steroids” and “He has to be cheating” were popping up left and right all throughout Saturday and Sunday.  Davis even responded to one fan on Sunday afternoon with a simple “No” when asked “Are you on steroids?”.

Players deal with this kind of reaction on a yearly basis.  Recent memory brings up the example of Jose Bautista, who broke onto the scene as a Baltimore Oriole in 2004 but didn’t establish himself as an everyday Major Leaguer until 2006 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bautista’s home run totals from 2006-2009 were 16, 15, 15, 13, respectively per season, decent numbers for a replaceable 3B/OF acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008 for a player to be named later.

Bautista flipped a switch in 2010, swatting 54 home runs and starting countless rumors and accusers that said he must have been using drugs, as a jump like this wasn’t possible otherwise.  To back it up a year later, Bautista hit a respectable 43 home runs in 2011, raising his on base percentage to .447 that year and proving that he was genuinely making the right adjustments and becoming a top of the line hitter in baseball.

While Bautista has cooled down in the power categories and simmered fans’ accusations, Davis is in that same situation in 2013 and it became overtly apparent over the past couple of days on social media platforms while his unbelievable strength and contact-to-damage ratio were on display for the world to see.

Baltimore is generally known as a middle market team, especially with MASN’s launch in 2005.  While the Orioles are not necessarily a penny pinching club like the Tampa Bay Rays or Houston Astros, they certainly don’t live up to the high payroll clubs such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.

An opportunity on the national stage was important to this team, especially as the last time Sunday Night Baseball was hosted in Baltimore was all the way back in 2005.

It needs to be reminded to fans that Davis has always had this power tool.  His strength has always been there. Dating back to his minor league days, Davis put up seasonal home run totals ranging from 23-36 in multiple years. In his first opportunities with the Texas Rangers back in 2008-09, Davis hit 17 HRs in 295 at bats and 21 HRs in 391 ABs. His declining average and ability to see good pitches and get on base are what got him sent packing off to Baltimore in 2011.

Thrown around the defensive side in 2012, getting starts in the outfield, first base, and a lot of time as the team’s designated hitter, Davis belted 33 HRs in a full season of at bats, a number that, if you asked Rangers fans, followers, coaches, and front office members, was fully expected of him just a few years earlier.

The major change for Davis in 2013 has come in his adjustments that have allowed him to slow down the game, get on base at a rate 80 points higher (.406 as of 7/1) than his career average of .326, and hit the ball to all fields, making him a valid threat daily to swat a double in the left center field gap just as much as he can be expected to launch a ball onto Eutaw Street.

The most impressive part of Davis’ game in 2013 has been how effortless it looks at times for him to hit the ball out of the park.  Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs put together this fantastic compilation post of some of the most graceful swings by Davis thus far.

Players are tested before, during, and after the season for all sorts of performance enhancing substances.  2013 is the first year that the drug testing program has implemented in season blood tests to all players in order to detect human growth hormone.  The New York Daily News also points out that “players’ urine samples will be automatically subjected to sophisticated Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) testing if a specimen does “vary materially from a player’s baseline values.”

A quick glace at photos of Davis from his early minor league days as well as his years in the big leagues with the Texas Rangers show us how he has always supported a large frame and muscular forearms throughout his career, nothing that suddenly changed coming into 2013.  Compare that to the classic example of the overall muscle and frame size difference taken on by Barry Bonds over the years.

While we live in a day and age where stories on PEDs and the sort are all the rage, it is tough to look at Chris Davis and contemplate that he may be using.  As Domenic Vadala of Bird Watcher simply put it, “For all I know, Davis might well be doing something illegal in attaining his numbers. And if that’s the case, then all of the people who are arrogantly calling him out will end up being vindicated.”

Davis has a track record to back up where his 2013 numbers are coming from, has not failed a single drug test since hitting the MLB circuit in 2008, and has shown signs of being a much more productive hitter in all facets of the game where slugging is just a part of the big picture.

Avi Miller is a graduating senior at Stevenson University aspiring to one day cover the MLB beat. A member of CoSIDA, Avi currently works in sports information at the NCAA Division III level and has previously held positions with the Baltimore Jewish Times and Fox Sports Radio.

32 Comments

  1. Dave

    July 1, 2013 at 10:14 am

    It’s not like he just randomly got power like Bautista did. Chris Davis has always had almost unheard of power.

    • Get Real

      July 16, 2013 at 2:42 am

      Lets GET REAL here.
      This guy is an HGH sponge. Bud Selig is a CRIMINAL (as are most of the other owners who run baseball)for allowing baseball to be ruined by druggies like this and turning baseball into a field of schemes. Over 90% of the league is on something.
      Wait til they catch juicer boy Mike Trout…and see Ryan Braun hit 216. without his drugs…MLB is a f^&ing JOKE.

  2. Jim

    July 1, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Of course people are going to speculate about a guy who never had numbers like this. Pointing to clean tests doesn’t prove much as the entire steroid era has shown. Cheating and cheaters are always ahead of the tests. I have no idea if Chris Davis is using anything and I’d like to hope and believe he isn’t, but the idea of “look at his body before”, “he just needed everyday ABs” and “he had minor league power” are about as convincing as “he has to be using”, “where were these numbers before” and “He answered a twitter inquiry with no”. It’s also a little funny to see Brady Anderson referenced in an article about someone not using performance enhancers. None of us know and if we are a fan we want to believe they are clean. Just enjoy the numbers because the speculation is never going away

  3. Andy McEvans

    July 1, 2013 at 11:49 am

    It is irrelevant whether Chris Davis has been muscular for a long time. The use of steroids and other PED’s in baseball is two decades old. Plenty of high school baseball players roid and have done so for years. Davis easily could have been taking illegal substances since the first time he was scouted.

    Davis’ improvement in hitting combined with his consistent frame isn’t proof that he’s clean, it’s just proof that he’s finally becoming good enough to take advantage of his incredible strength.

    Barry Bonds was always a great hitter. When he added steroids he became even better. It’s very possible that Chris Davis has simply done the same thing in reverse. He’s always been strong and now he has learned how to hit as well.

  4. mark

    July 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Let’s see he has been in the majors for like 7 years before this. usually by the 3rd year you get a good diea. Non steroied useres have consistent numbers. I took every year of Games played vs. HR and adjusted them all to a 162 game saeson and noone usually plays that much but close. anyhow, one year he had a pace of 46 HR and every year ha played more than 50 games his 162 game relative avg was 30-38 and a the sub 50 game yeas he would have had an avg of 3-15 for the year so heer is someone who averages a full season relative number as 34 HR/ yr and he sudenly doubles that out of the blue? really? that is ot a jump, that is a quantum leap. also batting avg was always .250..276 for his first 6 years or 7 so overall .266. And behold, he is suddaly at .333 uh huh. no steroids there.
    and let us analyze this furhter. at least 3 or 4 of the first 7 years he never played more than 139 games even.so he was hurt quite a lot. and now suddenly he is never hurt? you know one big thing about steroids is they heal you like 3 times faster than if you don’t take them. he apparntly has not missed much a ame at all this year. I have no personal issues with him because I have never heard of him until now and he sounds lik ea nice young man, but when you do the numbers, something is clearly not right. I don’t think adjusting your swing is going to have this dramatic an increase in this many categories.

    • anonymous hippopotamus

      July 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      “but when you do the numbers, something is clearly not right.” Elequently typed. How about a player coming into his prime? He hit 33 last year in his second full season in the majors. People forget this is really only his 3rd full season. And his numbers at AAA we’re staggering.

    • Nick F

      July 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      I’m going to give you some numbers, tell me if the guy was juicing:

      1st year: 53 PA, 0HR
      2nd: 541 PA, 7 HR
      3rd: 586 PA, 10 HR
      4th: 559 PA, 9 HR
      5th: 589 PA, 7 HR
      6th: 600 PA, 10 HR
      7th: 574 PA, 18 HR
      8th: 436PA, 5 HR
      9th: 651 PA, 43 HR
      10th: 540 HR, 15 HR
      11th: 1 PA, 0 HR
      12th: 156 PA, 8 HR
      13th: 158 PA, 4 HR

      My point here is that it’s not like there’s no historical precedent for somebody having a great year that looks like an anomaly on paper.

      Davis has always shown power. In the minors he had several seasons where he batted over .300. He hasn’t all of the sudden gotten big which means if he is juicing he’s been doing it his whole career and I seriously doubt he could get away with it for that long without getting caught in this day and age. Also, we have the same hitting coach who worked with Miguel Cabrera. He has said that a lot of the reason he is hitting better is the exercises he does with him.

      I don’t see why it’s such a leap to think that a guy who is only in his 3rd full season in the majors, is at the prime age, has always had power, has the same hitting coach who worked with the best hitter in the league in his formative years, and plays in a ballpark that lends itself to left handed hitters hitting home runs could hit a bunch of home runs without cheating.

      By the way, the numbers above are Davey Johnson’s. From 65-72 he averaged 8 HR per season. In 1973 he hit 5x that many. I’m pretty sure Davey wasn’t doing steroids in 1973.

      Also, just for fun, while we’re at it. Babe Rutg’s HRs by year: 0, 4, 3, 2, 11, 29, 54, 59, 35, 41, 46, 25, 47, 60, 54, 46, 49, 46, 41, 34, 22, 6.

      Ruth jumped from 29 to 54 in his 6th and 7th years. He wasn’t on roids. I wouldn’t be surprised if Davis cools off and ends up in the mid 50s.

      • spy

        July 2, 2013 at 9:24 am

        HGH has a lot going for it , Davis knows this very well…………………..

        • anonymous hippopotamus

          July 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm

          The MLB tests for HGH…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

        • MGW

          July 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm

          Is that was Maris took back in 1961?

          • spy

            July 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

            Maris is Davis’s idol , if Maris did , so does Davis………………….

  5. Pingback: Crashburn Alley » Blog Archive » A Quick Thought on Chris Davis

  6. Pingback: Here come the Chris Davis PED suspicions | HardballTalk

  7. MGW

    July 1, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    It’s a shame that baseball has come to this. Guy has a career year- after having a pretty impressive one in 2012- and fans assume he’s on PEDs.

    Maris hit 61 aft hitting 39 the year before. The rest of his numbers don’t come close to 61.

    Use Maris as an example and not Bonds.

    • Nick F

      July 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      It really is and it makes me so angry that the cheaters of the 90s put up such skewed numbers that it’s unlikely a non PED user will ever break the new records.

      Oh well. Aaron is still the all time home run leader and Maris is still the single season record holder to me.

      • spy

        July 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

        The record books show you are wrong , just ask the commissioner…………….

    • spy

      July 2, 2013 at 9:34 am

      MGW,,,,,,,,all the major power numbers have been bastardized (yes incher , this is a real word) , but until the record books reflect this those bastardized numbers stand tall,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,THe wonder Bud Selig didn;t have the balls to adjust the numbers properly so they stand and are recongized by the average fan as legitimate…………….Steroids and HGH will always enter the conversation until baseball sets the record straight,,,,,,,,,,the only real answer is the commissioner coming out and stating the bastardized numbers are not legitimate and reflect this in the record books , and multiblood-testing , at random , as needed , is performed several times a year and the results are public knowledge as to who was tested and how many times,,,,,,,,,,the real problem is the players union now and it used to be the owners,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,results=all decent players will be questioned and maybe rightly so…………………………..

  8. The Howling Fantods

    July 2, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Taking steroids doesn’t just instantly make you an all star. I mean, seriously, if all you had to do to be like Barry Bonds was starting taking steroids, literally everyone in baseball would be taking them. EVERYONE. If you didn’t, you would be out of a job, as everyone else at your position was taking steroids and obliterating the baseball each at bat.

    It’s not that simple. Adding additional muscle mass and improving recover/reaction time via steroids may help, but it is far from necessary or sufficient. It is quite embarrassing that people think this way.

    • spy

      July 2, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Old news , everyone knows this,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  9. Pole

    July 2, 2013 at 10:28 am

    People have become jaded for very good reasons. I would lean towards he’s not on PED’s but you can’t blame people for questioning the situation. Didn’t Raffy look at those Senators and say, “I have never used steroids, period.” pointing his finger to give enphasis.

  10. Dew Jay

    July 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    MLB only tests for HGH in spring training i believe, just saying MLB testing in that area is a joke. However Davis hit 42 (?) homers for the Rangers i believe and crushed the ball out of spring training only to be bumped by a guy named Hamilton… Look at the AAA numbers the year the Os traded for him, he was killing them – 24 hrs in 50 games, even in AAA ball that’s outstanding. I heard him talking before the season on how he hit off a tee this past offseason to learn to hit more outside pitches, think Jones was showed him that, didn’t hurt… I say he’s hit his prime, no doubt.

    • Nick

      July 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Actually, the MLBPA approved in season random HGH blood testing this season.

      • spy

        July 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm

        They need to publish the results , positive and negative……………..They do not think
        they have a public perception problem , another mistake by Selig…………

        • MGW

          July 2, 2013 at 9:28 pm

          spy, a PR problem for MLB?

          No, no, you’re thinking of the NFL where 28 players have been arrested since the Ravens won the Super Bowl. 28!

          That’s a PR problem.

          • Nick F

            July 3, 2013 at 12:29 am

            Yeah seriously.

            I don’t think it’s a PR problem for baseball at all. Since the steroid era they’ve implemented the strongest drug testing program in American professional sports and with this biogenesis thing they’re showing that they aren’t afraid to go after the big names.

          • spy

            July 3, 2013 at 9:52 am

            Football is a different animal,,,,,,,,,,for years , baseball discussions were centers around the numbers of the game , they meant something , not the discussion centers around ‘juicing’,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,yes , the PR problem does exhist in both sports but football is all about rough and tough and bigger and stronger , no matter how you get there,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,it doesn’t work in baseball where you used to be able to talk numbers like they were sacred and now they mean nothing at all,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  11. Mike

    July 3, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Typical Oriole lovers can’t believe that a player of theirs is juicing and cannot be doing anything wrong! Look at Brian Roberts. Since he can’t juice he can’t play anymore. But I bet it was the same guys like Dave, Jim, MGW, Hippo, Dew Jay were quick to toss Bonds, Clemens, McGwire under the bus. Oh no, not one of our precious Orioles, they cannot possibly be juicing! Give me a break!

    • MGW

      July 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Ravens2488

  12. Joe

    July 3, 2013 at 7:15 am

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  14. wisechick

    July 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Of course he is juicing. He is just smarter than the average juicer and knows how to cover it well. The problem is that most of the top producers will be juicing to get the results. Pro-sports has created a sub-culture of “neccessary cheating” if you want to be in the elite of your sport. Those who are willing to break the rules and put thier long-term health at risk for fame and money will always find a way to sneak contraband in and reap the benefits until the powers that be catch up and find a test to catch them.

  15. Get Real

    July 16, 2013 at 2:36 am

    Please .
    HGH is NOT tested for in MLB ..Neither is insulin….

    MLB is a JOKE when it comes to Drug Testing.

    If you think this guy is not heavily into HGH you think Bonds & McGuirre were clean.

    You also think Pujols, Thome and Mike Trout are clean ….PLEASE wake up.