The Baltimore Orioles have had four different American League MVP winners in franchise history, with the last one coming in 1991 when Cal Ripken batted .323, hit 34 home runs and drove in 114 runs.
It’s reasonable to think this season, the most logical choice to potentially win an MVP award will be first baseman Chris Davis. He’ll need to put up numbers similar to what he posted in ’13 and if the O’s win more than lose in ’14, his chances increase dramatically.
Davis posted the second highest OPS in the A.L. last season (1.004) behind Miguel Cabrera’s (1.078) and with an offense that is expected to score bunches of runs and be a threat from top to bottom, there is no reason to think he’ll be right there in late September with a chance.
He improved his plate discipline with help from hitting coach Jim Presley (who also worked with Miguel Cabrera in Florida with the Marlins in 2006 and 2007), cutting down his swing at times to help bat control, walking a career high 72 times after walking just 37 times in 2012.
Presley got the slugger into a mindset of simplifying each at-bat, and even down to each pitch that he sees. He has so much upper body strength that he doesn’t need to power the ball out, with solid contact and good usage of his lower body, a simple flick of the wrist sends the ball a long way. Davis will still strike out a fair amount but laying off junk should allow him to see better pitches in his wheel house.
He struggled during the middle of the season to find his groove and fell into old habits, but saw his walk rates rebound in August and September. That should help the batting average with carryover in ’14. Because of potential regression with fly ball rates and hitting the long ball, having a better idea at the plate each at-bat and adjusting to what pitchers are giving him should help to lessen that this season.
The top of the Orioles lineup should help Davis’ chances as well with a healthy and stronger Nick Markakis and the imminent return of Manny Machado who is progressing his way back from major knee surgery, will solidify the top of the order giving Davis opportunities to drive in runs.
Defense always factors into MVP discussion; Davis played 155 games at first base last season, handling 1420 chances with six errors. His range factor was second in the A.L. (9.12) behind only Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins with 9.69.
Davis handled a full-time move to first base and finally settled into not only being an everyday contributor in the Orioles lineup but playing the same position on a daily basis.
With new additions such as Nelson Cruz and David Lough deepening the lineup, Chris Davis has a fighters chance of becoming the fifth Oriole in team history to win American League MVP honors.