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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