In his first season with the A's in 2016, Khris Davis launched 42 home runs and drove in 102 runs. Incredibly, his production has increased each of the last two seasons.
Last year, Davis notched 43 homers and 110 RBI, both career highs. He has already matched those 43 home runs this season and set a new career high with 115 RBI, with 10 games still left to play.
“Consistent is probably the best word for that,” said A's manager Bob Melvin. “But to me, he's been a better hitter this year. ... He'll hit a ball in the hole between first and second, he'll drive the ball to right field. I think he's a better hitter this year and I think the RBI numbers would suggest that.”
“It's just kind of who I am,” Davis said of his consistency. “It's kind of my personality. I think I'm an all-around good hitter, not just a power hitter. I like to think of myself as a really good hitter with power.”
Part of what makes Davis so special is his opposite field power. Most sluggers pull the vast majority of their home runs, but Davis hits them to right field as effortlessly as he does to left.
“I think I developed it at an early age,” he said of his opposite field ability. “At this point of my life, it's just more about muscle memory and getting to repeat it.”
“He's a joke,” A's pitcher Brett Anderson said earlier this season. “He hits balls that left-handed pull hitters don't hit to right field. The ball comes off his bat different than pretty much everybody I've ever seen.”
We recently asked baseball scout and NBC Sports California analyst Shooty Babitt if he has ever seen anyone with Davis' ability to hit opposite field home runs.
“Yes, but not to this extreme,” he responded. “I always thought about Jim Rice as being one of the strongest right-handed hitters of my era. He got all his strength from his lower half -- just incredibly strong legs and the ability to create a lot of leverage. That's where (Davis) gets his (power) from. He's got bat speed, but the leverage comes from his legs.”
On the surface, Davis is not your prototypical power hitter. He is listed at only 5-foot-10 and has a somewhat unusual swing, where he often opens up his body and steps toward third base, or “in the bucket,” typically something baseball players try to avoid. But Davis makes it work.
“Just look at the results,” Babitt said. “If you go back and look at some of the greatest hitters to ever play -- Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays -- they both stepped in the bucket. But they were able to keep their hands back, because as a hitter you fight with your hands. As long as you've got them, you've got a chance. (Davis) has always got his hands in position to do damage.”
Melvin has also compared Davis' swing to that of Mays: “He opens up a little bit, but he keeps his hands back and keeps his left shoulder closed, and hits it out to right.”
Davis says he actually got his inspiration from another legendary slugger, Ken Griffey Jr.
“Mainly it's just channeling my inner Griffey and trying to mimic that. From the right-handed side, it sounds weird, but I think that's where it came from. ... No one ever really tinkered with it. I've pretty much had the freedom to do whatever I want at the plate my whole life.”
That freedom has certainly worked for him. Davis' 43 home runs lead all of Major League Baseball, as do his 128 homers over the last three seasons.
“For pitchers to know that and still continue to make mistakes, and for him to be able to capitalize on those mistakes, it kind of reminds me of Rickey (Henderson),” Babitt said. “Everybody in the stadium knew what he was going to do when he got on first base and they couldn't stop him. I think it's incredibly phenomenal what (Davis) is doing.”