Fifteen games into his 2020 season, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is off to another disappointing start. The two-time MLB home run champion is in year five of a seven-year, $161 million extension he signed with Baltimore in 2016. So far, the results haven’t been pretty.
Davis has hit just .196 over the course of that contract while eclipsing 20 home runs in a season only once. He’s posted a .357 OPS in 2020, which ranks 298th out of 299 players with at least 50 plate appearances so far this season. At 34 years old, Davis is hoping to rediscover a rhythm that he hasn’t had for sustained stretches in five years.
Former Orioles infielder and current MLB Network analyst Bill Ripken appeared on Wednesday’s episode of NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast. His advice to Davis: Try not to think too much about how big of a slump you’re in and focus on each plate appearance as they happen.
“I hope the best for him because I know it gets to him,” Ripken said. “I know it bothers him. I know everybody wants to go out there and play and play well. But it’s just one of those things you gotta grind through it, really take it at-bat by at-bat, as simple as that sounds. But it’s much harder than that, believe me.”
A former All-Star who’s netted AL MVP votes in two separate seasons, Davis used to be accustomed to sustained excellence as one of the league’s premiere power hitters. But the continued struggles can take a toll on even some of the best players in the games—sometimes, it hits them even harder than it does replacement-level players.
“It’s tough and even the best players go through little stretches,” Ripken said. “Christian Yelich with Milwaukee is in one right now, he’s on the interstate and you don’t think he doubts himself? I’m sure he does and [he’s] coming off an MVP season in that world a couple years ago. So, game’s hard.
“I think it’s real hard when you go out there and look and the stands are empty, no fans, you look up the video board when you come up to the plate and you see that average sitting there and you’re going, ‘Oh my goodness.’ You really do have to take it one game at a time and try to find something to build on.”
Davis’ contract won’t be up until after the 2022 season, so he still has time to turn things around before his tenure with the Orioles comes to an end. However, Baltimore’s young core is beginning to graduate from the minor leagues. At some point, the veteran first baseman may find himself out of time if he doesn’t start to show signs of progress at the plate.