Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter may apply his unorthodox leadoff batter approach to slugger Chris Davis for the 2018 season.
While hitting in the leadoff spot for the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, Adam Jones generated a .282 batting average, along with a .320 on-base percentage. It’s an unorthodox approach Orioles manager Buck Showalter applies to his slumping hitters.
Slugger Chris Davis may be the next Orioles power bat to hit leadoff after his disastrous 2017 season. Davis produced a 215 batting average, which was his worst since 2014 when he hit .196 in 525 plate appearances.
Since returning to Grapefruit League action on March 18 from right elbow soreness, Showalter has inserted Davis into the Orioles leadoff spot.
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Per Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun, Showalter has pondered on putting Davis at leadoff since last year.
"I think more than that,” he said. “It’s something that I was thinking about. You try to think about everything, but it’s something that Chris kind of brought up as much as I did to him as something. We’ll see how it goes. Everything’s subject to change. We haven’t totally committed to it, but it’s something we’re thinking about."
However, the following season in 2012, Showalter placed former Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis at leadoff after the All-Star break. Markakis went on to post a .335 batting average and compiled 74 hits in a bounce-back second half before a broken thumb forced him to miss the Orioles first playoff appearance in 15 years.
Markakis returned to the three spot in the Orioles batting order in 2013 as Nate McLouth took over leadoff duties. Nonetheless, Markakis returned as the featured leadoff hitter for the 2014 season to hit a slash line of .276/.342/.386.
As Markakis mentioned in the video, leadoff hitters 90 percent of the time receive that extra fifth at-bat, another cause to put a slumping bat at the top of the batting order. Well, the Oriole favorite tied a career-high of 642 at-bats that season, the most since 2009.
After the Orioles surprisingly let Markakis walk as he signed with the Atlanta Braves in the offseason heading into 2015.
In 2015, Manny Machado replaced Markakis at the top of the order and was penciled in as the O’s leadoff man for 111 games. Not to mention, it was Machado’s his first full season after suffering a gruesome knee injury at the end of the 2013 season.
As a result, Machado enjoyed a breakout season and hit .300/.364/.512 with 23 home runs and 58 RBIs batting first for the Orioles. Machado would end up hitting .286 for the season and smashed a career-high 35 home runs.
In this 2015 clip above, Showalter explains how a leadoff guy can get you a runner at second with one swing opposed to your typical leadoff man who is more likely to reach second base with a single and a stolen base.
In 2016, Showalter applied that logic by introducing Adam Jones to the leadoff role after hitting .223 with 34 strikeouts through the end of May. Batting first spurred Jones to hit .314/.354/.628 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs
Jones success carried over to the 2017 season, but not until after the All-Star break due to the poor performance of former Orioles outfielder Seth Smith.
Jones hit leadoff for 26 consecutive games before the Orioles acquired Tim Beckham at the MLB trade deadline. After his production at the plate dipped in June, Showalter planted Jones atop the O’s batting order.
Again, the move kickstarted Jones as he hit .275 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in July before the Orioles acquired Tim Beckham at the MLB trade deadline.
As he returned to the middle of the lineup, Jones stayed red-hot and hit .325 in Aug. with seven home runs and 17 RBIs.
Showalter doesn’t have much of a choice to help the slumping Davis, who is with the Orioles through the 2022 season after signing a mega-deal to stay in Baltimore during the 2016 offseason.