Looking deeper into Davis' strikeouts looking - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Looking deeper into Davis’ strikeouts looking

Swing the bat. Just swing the damn bat.

You are freakishly strong. You have changed many a game with the flick of your wrist. You’ve been doing this a long time. You’re being paid handsomely to cash in at the plate.

So, swing.

Go. Down. Swinging.

That’s likely the message you have for Orioles slugger Chris Davis in the past year or so. It’s the sentiment that resonated throughout Camden Yards – and in living rooms in the Mid-Atlantic region – Wednesday afternoon in the eighth inning.

With two runners on, two outs and the Orioles trailing 4-3, Davis took three straight balls to go up 3-0 in the count against Minnesota lefty Taylor Rogers.

Then, Davis took three more: A 93-mph fastball called a strike, a 93-mph fastball called a strike and an 80-mph curveball that froze Davis for strike three. Six pitches, and the massive first baseman didn’t swing at one.

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“If I could have gone back and done it all over, if I would have taken a hack at the 3-1 pitch, 3-2 pitch was the best pitch he threw me,” Davis said after the loss. “You go after it or you don’t. It kind of just locked me up. Obviously, I haven’t been feeling great at the plate lately.”

Here’s what manager Buck Showalter had to say about Davis’ at-bat in the eighth: “I know it’s frustrating for him and I’m sure for some people who watch us. But he usually (brings) returns if you stay with him. I thought he was aggressive early in the count in his early at-bats. Tough at bat. He wasn’t the only one.”

Davis is streaky, we all know that. And his power is prodigious. On Wednesday, he homered for the 209th time as an Oriole – tying Brady Anderson for seventh on the franchise’s list – and he’s only been with the club since July 2011.

We also know sluggers strike out. In today’s game, that’s pretty much accepted. But striking out looking? That’s less palatable.

Especially from a massive human like Davis. Especially at the incomprehensible rate of how often he watches strike three.

He leads the majors in the category with 31, nine more looking strikeouts than the guy in second place. But the numbers are more staggering when you dig deeper.

According to baseball-reference.com, the big league average for called strikeouts is 30 per 600 plate appearances. Davis has 31 this year in 184 plate appearances. Stunning.

Davis struck out looking 79 times in 670 plate appearances last year – and that was by far a career high (he struck out looking 56 times in both 2014 and 2015). If he sustains his pace this year and reaches 670 plate appearances, he will watch a third strike an unfathomable 113 times.

There was a time when 100 strikeouts in a season was considered excessive. Davis is on pace to strike out without swinging at the third strike more than 100 times.

So, what gives? Why doesn’t he get the bat off his big shoulders more in two-strike situations?

“There are times when I’m a little too selective. I think there have been a number of at-bats where some of the pitches could have gone either way and, obviously, with my reputation (for striking out), most of the time they go against me. There are a lot of things I’m not doing well right now,” Davis said. “I think a lot of it is how am I getting into those counts. … I feel like I’m fouling a lot of pitches off. A lot of good pitches to hit and just not able to put the barrel on the ball consistently. I’ll keep working at it and hopefully it will start swinging in my favor a little bit.”

Last year, 36 percent of Davis’ strikeouts were caught looking. This year, that number is up to 47 percent. So almost half the time when he goes down on strikes he doesn’t go down swinging.

Davis said it’s a strange balance. As the only left-hander in the middle of the order, and one with a good eye (he has 26 walks already this year and has had 84 or more each of the past two seasons), he said some pitchers have a tendency to work him carefully. Others, though, attack him. And sometimes he gets caught expecting a ball and it ends up being the best pitch of the at-bat – like it was Wednesday against Rogers.

“I think over the past few years I’ve learned to be a little more patient. But I also understand that guys aren’t going to give in. I’ve seen a lot of called third strikes that were just really good pitches,” he said. “You go back and forth as a hitter. Are these guys going to come after me or are they going to pitch around me with me being the only lefty in the middle of the lineup a lot of nights? Like in certain situations, guys aren’t necessarily trying to pitch to me, but they end up making good pitches and that’s part of it.”

It becomes a guessing game within the game. And, in one sense, you want Davis to be smart and patient to extend an inning.

But, on the flip side, you expect the big man to swing the damn bat, too. Even if he whiffs, that’s a little more satisfying than watching him shake his head at a called strike three.

Bottom line is that’s something we’ve seen far too often this year.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 25, 2017 at 7:53 am

    I’m wondering how much Crush gets paid for every swing of the bat?

    Using last years number of 665 plate appearances, and pulling a (generous?) guess of 2½ swings per per appearance out of my ear … I’m calculating that the Crusher gets paid roughly $12,631 per swing?

    Perhaps our in house sabermetric guru/mathmetician Mr. Folkemer (or someone else with more time on their hands than I) could weigh in with a more accurate number?

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 25, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Interesting question, Boog. According to Baseball Reference, Davis last year saw 2,755 pitches. Per FanGraphs, he swung at 42.7% of them. So that means he swung at approximately 1,176 pitches last year, give or take a few.

      Davis was paid $23 million, so he earned roughly $19,557 per swing in 2016, if I’ve calculated all this correctly.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 25, 2017 at 10:25 am

        Thank you Paul!!! 20k per … wow!

        Now if you could only tell me how do I get one of these jobs? Hah!

  2. cptcliche

    May 25, 2017 at 9:02 am

    It’s weird. This year, Davis is swinging at 31.7% of pitches outside of the zone, his highest number since 2013. But he’s swinging at only 55.5% of pitches in the zone, far and away the lowest of his career (64.1% last year, never below 70.4% in any other year). So he’s being more selective whenever it’s a strike, but he’s chasing more balls. Bizarre combination.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 25, 2017 at 9:17 am

      Where does one find this kind of information?

      • cptcliche

        May 25, 2017 at 9:24 am

        I got that data from Fangraphs.com

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          May 25, 2017 at 11:06 am

          Thank you sir.

  3. tpg21152

    May 25, 2017 at 10:16 am

    He’s got the hitters yips. I’ve seen it at the 10U level all the way up through what Davis is going through at his level. I read an article “somewhere” on the internet that a way to get someone swinging is to put the hit and run on even if the person isn’t that type of hitter. If they’re a skilled and fundamentally sound player and know what the play is about, they will do everything they can to protect that runner. If it’s anywhere around the plate you swing. Maybe a thought for him? You’ll get some strikem out throwem outs but he will have to swing….right?

  4. Osfan73

    May 25, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Could it be he’s just being more selective , trying to see more pitches and then maybe just overdoing it, as in trying TOO hard to be selective. It does look as though he’s just going to end up outsmarting himself by looking at all these pitches.

  5. ubetonit

    May 25, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    “and one with a good eye” (he has 26 walks already this year and has had 84 or more each of the past two seasons). ” NO, he doesn’t. He just takes a lot of pitches (hats off to cptcliche):

    “This year, Davis is swinging at 31.7% of pitches outside of the zone, his highest number since 2013. But he’s swinging at only 55.5% of pitches in the zone, far and away the lowest of his career (64.1% last year, never below 70.4% in any other year). So he’s being more selective whenever it’s a strike, but he’s chasing more balls. Bizarre combination.” Fangraphs.com

  6. Beeb

    May 26, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Dan:
    Excellent analysis! As a fan, Davis is about as frustrating as it gets. You answered the question “how many times”. Unfortunately, Davis is unable to answer “why?”.

  7. woody

    May 27, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    OK – i’ve never heard of a batter having what i’m about to suggest…

    Has Davis got the yips?

    I’ve seen a lot of his caught lookings – they make no sense. I’ve just seen him not swing at a Dallas pitch on a 0-2 count, with the pitch right down the middle.

    99% of batters would swing at that. Davis has to want to swing at that. The only explanation is that he can’t actually make himself swing the bat when he wants to, which is the yips.

    • ubetonit

      May 27, 2017 at 11:16 pm

      It’s too bad PA didn’t have the yips when he made DD extend Davis contract. Who were the other bidders driving up the price? How are are Davis defenders going to feel when the Orioles cannot re-sign Manny&Britton b/c of Davis bloated contract.

      The bottom dropped out of the high power/ high strike out /low contact hitters market. Chris Carter tied for the NL HR lead in 2016 & could not get a new LT contract. He’s a reserve on the NYY bench now.

  8. woody

    May 28, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Upside. Davis/Ubaldo, Ubaldo/Davis. You can see it happening, it just never happens.

    I’ll defend the value of his contract to an extent though. CD is not your typical 1B slugger. These guys usually are terrible long term investments because of being physically incapable of defying the aging curve and being able to contribute defensively. CD looks like he can keep in shape for the duration of his contract and he plays excellent defense. I think the size of contract was a big risk given how he’s played in recent years, but I do have ubaldo style faith that he’ll deliver.

    He just needs more/less of the pills he’s currently on.

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