Forget the contract, a prolonged absence by Davis hurts the Orioles - especially defensively - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Forget the contract, a prolonged absence by Davis hurts the Orioles — especially defensively

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has not had a particularly good run since he signed his huge, $161 million contract in January 2016.

Last year, Davis hit .221 and struck out a league-worst 219 times in 665 plate appearances. This year, he was hitting .226 with a league-leading 95 strikeouts in 250 plate appearances before leaving Monday’s game in Chicago with a right oblique strain.

Davis hasn’t been placed on the 10-day disabled list yet, but he will be. The timeline for his return won’t be known until after he gets checked out by doctors in Baltimore.

But oblique injuries are usually bad news for hitters – and so he is probably looking at several weeks away from the team.

And that’s not a good thing, despite what some fans may spew via social media. It’s a terrible thing, given how bad this club is right now.

I know there are plenty of people who are frustrated with Davis and his continual all-or-nothing results at the plate. I get that.

I know there is a consensus that the Orioles already have plenty of power, and so Davis’ team-leading 14 homers this year (and 38 last year) are replaceable.

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Maybe they are – although it’s not like the Orioles are swimming in runs right now. They aren’t swimming in anything but mediocrity (or worse) right now. And Davis has driven in 26 runs.

But I’ll concede that point. They probably can survive without his power.

There is more to Davis’ game, however. Let’s not forget he leads the team in walks with 30. He had a .320 OBP – not great, but solid considering how low his average is – and was second on the Orioles in runs scored.

Still, you figure Hyun Soo Kim should get a little more playing time now that Davis will be on the shelf and Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo get more time at first base. (Not sure what the playing-time plan will be for left-handed-hitting first baseman David Washington, who was scratched from Triple-A Norfolk’s lineup Tuesday and was joining the Orioles, according to the Virginian-Pilot.) If Kim gets the call more often in left field, he should be able to provide the club a lift in on-base percentage, or at the least give the Orioles what Davis did.

The real hole caused by Davis’ injury, though, will be felt on defense. It often gets overshadowed how good Davis is in picking throws out of the dirt at first base. They aren’t even throws. They are lasers coming from Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy.

Machado can make that amazing, bare-handed, sideways throw because Davis is there to clean it up. Schoop can rifle a double-play ball from the air at second because Davis’ soft hands are on the receiving end. Hardy can go deep into the hole for a grounder and risk the throw because Davis’ balance on the stretch may take away a step from the runner.

In my opinion, Davis has become the best defensive first baseman the Orioles have had since Rafael Palmeiro, the first time around. Mancini will be fine, but he’s not as polished as Davis.

And, don’t be fooled, first base defense is exceptionally important. Ask Orioles manager Buck Showalter, a former first baseman in the minors. It’s underrated, but key.

I guess my point is, for all the Orioles’ fans grumbling about how Davis hasn’t lived up to his contract so far – and he may never live up to it – he’s still an important part of this team in several ways. And losing anyone like that – including Davis – for a period of time is going to sting a little.

It could end up stinging a lot, frankly, no matter what you think about his contract.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    June 14, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Dan, far be it for me to ever disparage that albatross of a contract, but I agree, we’ll miss the Crusher. But David Washington? Really? I don’t get it … with Mancini & Jumbo on the team, why call up a journeyman 1st baseman? I see he has some pop in his bat, but why not Bourn or Gentry? Couldn’t we use another outfielder that can play center since Buck seems intent on resting Jones more and more? Rickards stinks out there for crying out loud!

    Heck, I’d rather see them use this opportunity to give Tanner Scott a look see! Another 1st baseman? Why?

    But what I really want to know is what does this say about and/or to The Bull Alvarez? I’d have loved to been a fly on Norfolk’s locker room wall when that call was placed!

    Davis Washington? Oh Dan, the sky is indeed falling!

    • Dan Connolly

      June 14, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      The Washington call-up is curious to me, too. My only thought is they want to see how long Davis will be out. And Washington is a fine stop-gap for 10 days or so. If it will be a lengthy stay it could be someone else coming up. I dunno. I just imagine they don’t want to jerk Alvarez around.

    • Paul Folkemer

      June 14, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      The Orioles released Bourn three weeks ago. He plays for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate now.

      But I agree that Gentry might’ve been a better choice for a call-up than Washington. You could move Mancini (or Trumbo) to 1B full time, put Kim in the lineup in LF more frequently, and have Gentry ready to go as a late-inning defensive replacement (or platoon guy against lefties) if needed.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        June 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm

        Paul, thanks for the correction on Bourn. I had looked at the Norfolk stats today, and just assumed he was there since I saw his numbers.

  2. Wade Warren

    June 14, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    I think Pedro should been called up and who could blame him if he opted out and went to free agency? I am disgusted with Orioles for this move. I will miss Chris Davis and hope he gets back sooner than later.

  3. karks

    June 14, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    They are going to miss CD for however long he’s out. He has saved so many errors this year alone.

    This season has just fallen off a cliff. We can’t score runs, our starting pitchers (save for one) are nowhere near effective and we’re missing two key guys in the bullpen. I’m starting to wonder if they’re going to be sellers at the trade deadline.

  4. Osfan73

    June 14, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Agreed that Davis’s defense will be missed. I was always amazed at how easily he made it look digging throws out of the dirt on a short hop. Equally amazing to me are some the line drives hit towards him that he catches for outs that may otherwise be basehits. This made it a bit easier to swallow all those strikeouts (everyone at home and at the game knows he’ll get an 0-2 pitch in the dirt and he swings at it anyway, i know-protecting the plate but still.)
    Starting to look like it’s just one of those years where injuries to really key players keep happening. Problem is it’s exposing a real lack of depth at some positions, ESPECIALLY the pitching. But we’ll leave that for another article lol.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    June 14, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    You bunch of naysayers!I for one am thrilled to witness the dawn of the glorious David Washington era

  6. JHHUFF76

    June 14, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    I agree Chri$$ Davi$$ , can take throws from Machado and Schoop and the IF. But, i have been watching the last 10 games or so. i havn’t seen many balls hit on the ground. We have been crushed.

    sp is the problem. Britton has been out but he would n’t have gotten into too many games lately, the O;s are usually behind 6-7 runs early. Why want the great DD just admit he flopped with Jiminez and release him to clear up a spot for the bullpen.. With this starting staff you are sure going to need some more arms in BP

  7. woody

    June 17, 2017 at 8:07 am

    The most curious move for me isn’t Washington, though for sure that takes some beating!

    What surprises me is Mancini at 1B. We’ve got Crush on a massive long term deal, and he’s a great 1B as you say Dan. So Trey will never be 1B for the O’s in the immediate future. He’s trying to learn the outfield, why mess with him? On the other hand you’ve got Trumbo – also a good 1B, a failure in the outfield and now DH. Furthermore playing Trumbo at DH means that to play Kim you have to play him in LF. He’s certainly no liability in the outfield, but i’m not sure he’s had to wash his uniform yet this season – he never attempts to make a play and is one of the worst in the league because of that.

    Its so simple for me – Trumbo 1B, Mancini RF, Rickard LF and Kim DH. And I totally agree re Gentry. He should be in that squad giving AJ some time off – he can’t even jog let alone chase balls down. The current lineup is completely flawed but seems really simple to improve quite a bit with a couple of switches.

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