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What Was Wrong With Orioles Slugger Chris Davis In 2017?

October 6, 2017
Chris Davis knows how bad his 2017 season was. The Orioles first baseman asked to meet with a small group of reporters before the team's final game of the season because he wanted to apologize for -- not explain away -- his performance.
Davis will look for an explanation this offseason when he works in Texas with Orioles hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh as he tries to recapture the magic that earned him a seven-year, $161 million contract.
Two years into the deal, Davis is deeply disappointed, and so are Orioles fans, many of whom have singled him out for criticism.
Just how rocky was 2017 for Davis?
Despite missing a month with an oblique strain, Davis still struck out 195 times -- in 42.8 percent of his at-bats. He averaged more than 1.5 strikeouts a game, and had he played in 160 games as he did in 2013 and 2015 -- his two outstanding seasons -- Davis would have struck out 244 times, which easily would have been a major league record.
In his words, Davis has "always been a high strikeout guy." Even in 2013 and 2015 when he hit a combined 100 home runs, Davis struck out in more than a third of his at-bats.
But observers saw something much different in Davis this season. In 2014, when he batted .196 and had his season truncated by a 25-game suspension for use of Adderall without a prescription, he wasn't nearly as passive at the plate as he was this year. There were countless called third strikes this season.

In the past, Davis always had the potential for being a dangerous hitter no matter the count, but not this year.

On 0-2 counts, Davis was 1-for-53 (.038) and struck out in 42 of those at-bats. The passivity exhibited itself more glaringly on full counts, in which Davis was 4-for-53 (.075). He walked 41 times and struck out 36 times on 3-2 counts.
Compare that with the rest of his career: Davis has 10 home runs on 0-2 counts and 28 when the count is full, but none came in 2017.
Even Davis' home runs were different this year. In 2015 when he led the majors with 47, nearly half of them (23) came with runners on base.
This year, 20 of his 26 homers were bases-empty shots, and only three of them came after the seventh inning. In 2015, 15 of his 47 home runs came in the eighth inning or later.
Not that his home runs were meaningless this year. Twenty-two of the 26 came with the Orioles within four runs.
Davis' defense wasn't as sharp this year as it had been in the past, either. He made seven errors -- all of them coming in his final 76 games at first.
The Orioles have an enormous investment in Davis. His large contract makes him untradeable, and he's personally invested in the area. While not a full-time resident, he's one of the few Orioles who owns a home here, and he devotes time and money to the University of Maryland Children's Hospital.
After the 2014 season, the Orioles hired Coolbaugh, who had worked with Davis with the Texas Rangers. The combination has been a successful one, and Davis is thinking it will be again.
When the Orioles report to spring training in February, they are surely hoping they'll see the Davis they saw in 2013 and 2015. And so are the fans.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox