Athletics

Players, managers, scouts all marvel at Khris Davis' power: 'He's a joke'

Players, managers, scouts all marvel at Khris Davis' power: 'He's a joke'

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.”

Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

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Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Blake Treinen, RHP

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $7.8 million after earning $6.4 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

In 2018, Blake Treinen enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in MLB history. The right-hander went 9-2 with 38 saves and a 0.78 ERA, notching 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.

Unfortunately, Treinen followed that up with the worst season of his career, going 6-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 2019, ultimately losing the closer job to Liam Hendriks. Still, Treinen's stuff looked dominant at times and he could certainly bounce back in 2020.

Treinen is still just 31 years old and should have some productive years ahead of him. His fastball averaged 97 mph this season with explosive movement. If he can improve his command, Treinen could still be a productive reliever moving forward.

Reasons to let him go

Treinen is coming off an incredibly disappointing season. He entered the year as one of the top closers in baseball, but quickly lost his closer job due to injury and poor performance.

Treinen's 4.91 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, and 5.14 FIP were all career worsts, as were his 37 walks in just 58 2/3 innings. He saw his season come to a premature end when an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his back. And pitchers and back injuries don't mix well (see: Marco Estrada). Tendering Treinen a contract would be a major risk.

Final verdict

Treinen could very well return to being an effective relief pitcher, but the A's can't afford to take that chance for nearly $8 million. That money would be better spent on multiple relievers to help shore up the team's shaky bullpen.

[RELATED: A's stay or go candidate for 2020 season: Jake Diekman]

Between Treinen's on-field struggles and the injury concerns, Oakland would be better off seeking an offseason trade of its former All-Star closer. If the A's can't get a deal done, look for a non-tender.

Why Jake Diekman's command issues could mean A's move on in offseason

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Why Jake Diekman's command issues could mean A's move on in offseason

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who might or might not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Jake Diekman, LHP

Contract: $5.75 million mutual option for 2020 ($500,000 buyout)

Reasons to bring him back

Diekman's stuff is undeniable. The 32-year-old left-hander boasts a 96-mph fastball along with a wicked slider, making him a tricky at-bat for right-handed and left-handed hitters alike.

Despite a 1-7 record and 4.65 ERA this season, Diekman notched 84 strikeouts in just 62 innings. For his career, he has averaged 11.2 punchouts per nine innings.

Another reason to keep Diekman is Oakland's lack of left-handed relievers. Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk both figure to move to the starting rotation next year and Ryan Buchter's return is far from certain. As a result, Diekman could be the only southpaw in the A's bullpen.

Reasons to let him go

While Diekman's strikeout numbers were highly impressive, his lack of command became a major issue down the stretch. He walked 39 batters this season, including 16 in 20 1/3 innings with the A's.

That contributed significantly to Diekman's disappointing 1.42 WHIP and 4.65 ERA. For $5.75 million, you'd have to think the A's would want someone more consistent and reliable in the late innings.

[RELATED: A's 3B coach Williams will manage in Korea next season]

Final verdict

Oakland is unlikely to bring Diekman back next season for a couple of reasons. Far too often, he just doesn't know where his pitches are going. Throughout his career, Diekman has averaged five walks per nine innings. That's a serious problem for a setup man.

The other factor is Diekman's $5.75 million price tag. That is a high figure for any non-closer, but particularly worrisome for a setup man who has proven to be inconsistent.

The A's would probably be wise to spend that money elsewhere.