Does Chris Davis “Carry” the Baltimore Orioles?

Sep 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) hits a home run against Toronto Blue Jays in the second inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Before the rainout in Washington on Monday night was officially announced, the O’s MASN reporters were filling time with reflections on the 2015 season for the Baltimore Orioles. In talking about Chris Davis, they were discussing how Crush has put together a great season, saying that Crush put the team on his back and carried them. Is this really true?

The reporters did immediately acknowledge that not enough of the rest of the team pulled their weight and helped Davis. And that certainly is true and REALLY needed to be said at that point.

This will be far from the last piece we do on Chris Davis, reflecting both on this season, his time with the Orioles, and considering what chances there are of a continued future and at what cost.

So let’s look at some numbers a bit and ask if Davis can be said to be the offensive workhorse of the team. But first, here are some general summary statements about this 2015 campaign …

  • Chris Davis has had a better season than probably most writers and fans expected. I would have been content with .235 and 35 home runs as at least decent, whereas Davis has a current .264 average with 43 home runs and 109 RBIs.
  • The 2015 season was a great improvement over 2014’s debacle. This is not saying much however, as 2014 was truly terrible. The only thing saving him from having more strikeouts than batting average (practically never done in the history of baseball, but see “Reynolds, Mark”) was his 50-game suspension ending the season.
  • The 2015 season is not as good as 2013. But again, that is quite a standard. It was one of the all-time great single seasons for a player, posting 53 homers, 138 RBIs and .286 average.
  • The 2015 numbers look to be better than average for Davis in his career. Of course, his career is still probably less than half over, but currently Davis is batting nine points higher than his overall lifetime average, and 43 homers is already his second-best number.

As you may recall from the beginning of the season, Davis looked better than 2014 yet was on pace to record a startling number of strikeouts. After 27 games (equal to one-sixth of the season), he was on track to register 270 strikeouts!  (He will likely end up at about 210.)  He had hit six home runs and was batting .250.

It was really not until after the All-Star game that Davis got the bat going in a way we remember from the pre-2014 era. Looking over his past 54 games (equaling a third of a season), Davis has put up truly remarkable numbers: 22 home runs and 53 RBIs on a .302 average. Imagine that over a full season: 66 homers and 159 runs batted in. And even with 77 strikeouts over those 54 games, Davis still has had an on base percentage of .422!  So he has been very, very good.

But here is the problem, the Baltimore Orioles have a cumulative record in those games of just 27-27. So it certainly does take more than one player having stellar numbers to carry a team. It only goes just so far. And honestly, the phrase that says “putting the team on his back and carrying them” is really rather worthless in this sport. And looking to the future, I certainly hope the Orioles will have a shot at retaining Davis; but it is clear from this analysis that it is far from the only improvement that has to be made to bring the O’s back to the top of Major League Baseball.