Is Chris Davis Finally Starting To Heat Up?

Yesterday had this distinct feeling at Camden Yards. No I’m not talking about that sticky hot, sweat rolling down your back while the sun beats down on you in the bleachers, feeling. Seriously though, I think my belt buckle just about gave me a third degree burn when I sat down after Thank God I’m A Country Boy.

Rather, the atmosphere at Oriole Park had a very Sunday feel to it. Aptly so, the Orioles fell 6-4 in their finale to the Twins, earning their 26th loss in 45 day games. For a team with 79 wins on the season, that’s pretty astounding. Needless to say, there wasn’t a ton to be excited about on Monday afternoon at the Yard. Don’t get me wrong, the Adam Jones bobbleheads were pretty sweet, but as far as the play on the field was concerned, no dice.

As I exited Eutaw Street and prepared to sit in inordinate amounts of traffic, I did come away with a positive on-field observation: Chris Davis is putting together some pretty solid at-bats. Here was Davis’s line on Monday: 2-for-4, 0 runs, 0 RBI, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts.

So perhaps the numbers don’t quite show anything particularly special, but if you saw Davis in action you’d probably come away feeling pretty good about his performance too.

In his first at-bat, Davis worked the count to 2-1 on three straight fastballs, he then drove a 93 mile per hour pitch to right field for a single in the bottom of the second. Yes, he hit it to right field, you read that correctly. That means Davis hit the ball over the shift and softly placed in front of Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia. It was a thing of beauty.

Davis had a similar at-bat in the bottom of the fourth, though this time Arcia was able to track down his liner for the final out of the inning. #BABIP’ed

What he did in the seventh though was probably the most impressive. Down 0-2, Davis hit a fastball the other way down the the third base line for a single. It’s hard not to give the guy a standing ovation for hitting to the opposite field. Below are Davis’ spray charts from 2014 and 2013, check out how much more success he had going opposite field last season.

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

With the shifts that teams employ on Davis, if he can hit the ball down the line the other way, he’ll usually always make it to first. The problem is, he hasn’t been able to do it this season.

Let’s move on to his final AB. The Birds needed to come up with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to offer their fans free (sweltering hot) baseball. Nelson Cruz did his part, leading things off with his 36th dinger, Davis attempted to follow his lead by hitting a deep fly ball to center field, but unfortunately it was hauled in Eric Fryer.

And that concluded Davis’s day. Two hits, three line drives, four balls in play and not a single strikeout. Not too shabby.

My sample size here is incredibly small. In fact, it’s just one day, but Davis has shown signs of improvement in all four games against the Twins. He struck out just once in the series, walked four times and hit his 24th homer of the season. We saw more balls in play, line drives and even a hit to the opposite field.

I never expected Davis to hit another 53 homers in 2014, but I don’t think anyone thought he’d be a below .200 hitter either. If I had to guess, I would venture to say that Davis has been bothered most of the season by the oblique injury that he rushed back from in May. He may never admit that, but it makes sense when seeing his ability to hit opposite field diminish and his fly ball rate decrease.

2013 0.71 21.9% 32.4% 45.6%
2014 0.81 24.2% 34.0% 41.8%
Career 0.87 23.1% 35.7% 41.2%

After showing some positive signs over the long weekend, perhaps the big fella is finally coming around.