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Orioles puzzled over Davis' 2016 numbers

Orioles puzzled over Davis' 2016 numbers

Who was more valuable to the Orioles in the season just past? Was it Mark Trumbo—or Chris Davis? 

Most Orioles fans would say that it was Trumbo with his major league leading 47 home runs, but according to Baseballreference.com’s Wins over Replacement (WAR) calculations, it’s Davis. 

Trumbo’s offensive WAR was 2.8, the highest of his career, but his defensive WAR was -2.1, his lowest. Trumbo’s total WAR was 1.6.

Davis’ total WAR of 3.0, was nearly double Trumbo’s. His offensive WAR was 2.4, not far off from Trumbo’s, and his defensive WAR was -0.2. 
 
Interestingly, Fangraphs recently wrote that Davis, by its calculations, should be the American League Gold Glove first baseman, an opinion often offered by manager Buck Showalter. 

Davis hit 38 home runs and drove in 84 runs yet his season was seen as a failure. 

How could it not have been? After signing a seven-year, $161 million contract in January, the expectations placed on Davis were extraordinary. 

But, while his home runs and RBIs look strong, he struggled to put up decent numbers in many other offensive categories. 

Davis hit just .221, second lowest of his career, and his 219 strikeouts were the third most in baseball history. Only Mark Reynolds (223 with Arizona in 2009) and Adam Dunn (222 with the White Sox in 2012) had more. 

Though he had a career high in strikeouts, Davis also walked a career-most 88 times, giving him an on-base percentage of .332, which ranked him behind only Hyun Soo Kim (.382 in 95 games) and Manny Machado (.343) among Orioles regulars. 

Strikeouts with Davis are simply a cost of doing business. In 2015, the year that literally forced the Orioles to give Davis this huge contract, he struck out 208 times, but still managed to hit .262 along with his 47 home runs and 117 RBIs. 

Even in his breakthrough 2013 season when he finished third in Most Valuable Player balloting, Davis struck out 199 times when he hit .286 and led the majors with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs.

At last week’s season-ending press conference, manager Buck Showalter suggested that many of Davis’ offensive issues were due to a nagging hand injury that was sustained in the season’s early weeks. 

Davis really only had one strong month. In June, he hit .284 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs. He followed that with an awful July, when he slumped to .153 with just three homers and seven RBIs. 

While he hit 10 home runs in August, nine of them were solo shots, and he had just three RBIs that didn’t come on homers. 

What’s ahead for Davis? 2017 is likely to be a season without Trumbo in the lineup, and maybe if the Orioles move Adam Jones back to third while Davis bats fourth, it could help him. 

A year ago fans were frenetic over the possibility that Davis might leave. After protracted negotiations, Davis remained after the Orioles forked over by far their largest commitment in team history. 

With Davis ensconced at first base, the Orioles may have to find a place for rookie Trey Mancini, who hit three home runs in five September games. 

Mancini may be at DH because Davis’ glove work is far superior to Mancini’s. Last fall, Davis’ agent, Scott Boras sold Davis as not only a fine first baseman but as an adept outfielder, too. 

Davis played just three games in right field and was twice the designated hitter. Showalter much preferred Davis at first to Trumbo. 

Despite his offensive shortcomings in 2016, Davis remained a fan favorite. He did hit the 12th most home runs in a team history in 2016, but how many of them were memorable? 

Only six of his 38 home runs came in the seventh inning or later. Three of them had a demonstrable effect on the game. 

On Apr. 11, Davis hit a ninth inning homer at Fenway Park against Craig Kimbrel that broke a 6-6 tie in a 9-7 win. 

On May 20, Davis’ seventh inning home run broke a 4-4 tie and sent the Orioles on their way to a 9-4 win against the Los Angeles Angels.

Less than three weeks later, Davis hit a home run in the seventh in Toronto that tied the score at 5 in an eventual 6-5 Orioles win. 

His other three late-inning home runs came in games in which the Orioles led or trailed by at least six runs. 

Davis followed his spectacular 2013 with an awful 2014 that saw his batting average fall to .196. The year ended with Davis suspended for use of Adderall without a prescription. 

He smartly rebounded in 2015, earning the mammoth contract. 

Orioles fans are hoping the odd-year Davis syndrome works in their favor in 2017. 

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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