I guess there's a trend developing here:
Chris Davis, first half 2013: .315/.392/.717, 10 percent walk rate, 28 percent strikeout rate
Chris Davis, second half 2013: .245/.339/.515, 12 percent walk, 32 percent K
Chris Davis, through May 23, 2014: .267/.392/.500, 14 percent walk, 25 percent K
Chris Davis, since May 23: .150/.260/.307, 13 percent walk, 34 percent K
Before Wednesday's game, Davis worked with Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley and manager Buck Showalter, hitting off a tee. Davis told the Baltimore Sun about talking with Showalter:
"We talked a little bit the past few days about how I'm feeling and everything. I told him I feel like I'm seeing the ball well. We just kind of talked about my bat path a little bit and little things here and there. He's seen me play quite a bit the last few years, and when I was with Texas, and he just had some things he wanted to talk to me about, and they were helpful."
Coming off a season in which he led the major leagues with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs, Davis has been frustrated by aggressive shifts that have played him to pull this season, taking away hits to right field. Opposing teams also shifted Davis last season, but he said he believes teams are playing him more down the first-base line this year.
"The second baseman playing five feet off the right-field line. Those are the things I had to get used to. They're pitching me to hit into the shift. Last year, there were times when they were shifting me and pitching me to go the other way, so it worked to my advantage.
"A number of swings this year, I've really been pulling off the ball or hooking the ball, and that was something in the past I did really well, going the other way and staying through the ball. It’s not necessarily about trying to hit everything to left field, because that's actually what [Showalter] said. 'We’re not trying to teach you to hit the ball the other way. You know how to hit the ball the other way.' I'm just trying to stay through the ball a little more."
Like most home run hitters, Davis loves to get those arms extended. He can drive the outside pitch to the opposite field with big power -- 16 of his 53 home runs went to left field or left-center last year. What he has struggled with, even last year, is inside pitches. Here are his numbers the past two seasons on inside, middle and outside pitches:
Even last year when he hit those 53 home runs he struggled against inside pitches. But he didn't miss many pitches that were down the middle and also crushed on the outside part of the plate. We can see his struggles on outside pitches with these two heat maps:
Have pitchers adjusted by throwing Davis more inside? Not really. His percentages on location the past two years:
Inside: 33.2 percent
Middle: 20.4 percent
Outside: 46.4 percent
Inside: 28.4 percent
Middle: 21.8 perent
Outside: 49.9 percent
He's actually seeing fewer inside pitches, so Davis' suggestion that opponents are pitching more to the shift doesn't match with the numbers. His overall strikeout rate is identical to last year (29.6 percent versus 29.5 percent) and his walk rate is actually up a little this year, so it's not like he's simply swinging and missing more. I can see why he thinks the shift has played a factor, however: He's hitting more ground balls and line drives this year and 10 percent fewer fly balls. Fewer fly balls means fewer home runs. So he probably is getting tired of those 4-3 groundouts.
So what's it all mean? I'm not sure it's anything more than a bad slump, to be honest, a fly ball hitter who just isn't getting the ball in the air often enough. There isn't anything in the pitching patterns that are much different, from what I can tell at first glance. Considering he was fine up through May 23, I suspect we'll see production similar to that the rest of the season. The Davis of the first half of 2013 was a slugger having his career hot streak; that stretch was probably an outlier, as evidenced by his second half. But he's better than he's been the past month, and assuming there isn't some lingering injury, I don't see why he can't snap out of this and hit .260-.270 with 20 home runs the second half.