Going into the 2013 season, one of the big questions surrounding the Orioles was Chris Davis at first base. In 26 games at first last year, Davis fielded at a .989 clip and committed four errors before Mark Reynolds became the Orioles’ everyday first baseman. However, for the season overall, Davis hit .270 with 33 homers.
I remember saying on Birds Watcher during spring training that the nightmare scenario for the Birds would be for Davis to struggle in the field to the point that the O’s couldn’t justify keeping him in the lineup. Wouldn’t that cause a bit of a power outage offensively?
It certainly would have, but the good news is that Davis has played a very solid first base to this point in the season, with a .996 fielding percentage and only two errors. More importantly, Davis is hitting .354 with an OBP of .439 and 20 homers.
So with that in mind, should Davis be considered as a candidate for American League Most Valuable Player? First and foremost, we’re one third of the way into the season; I’m not sure it’s really fair to be talking about any of this right now. But this isn’t about fairness, it’s about discussion.
First off, so long as Miguel Cabrera is hitting at his current pace, Davis probably has very little chance of winning the award. Cabrera is currently hitting for a higher average, but with fewer home runs. Cabrera certainly has better name recognition after hitting for the triple crown last year, but the MVP vote isn’t supposed to be based on that. But the fact is that we’re kidding ourselves if we think that doesn’t play into the discussion.
The vote is supposed to be based on which player was the most valuable to his team. The case can certainly be made for both, however, the one reason I might give the nod to Davis (if the season ended today, of course) has nothing directly to do with him.
As with many other things, it comes back to pitching. The Orioles, as a pitching staff, have a 4.55 ERA on the year. Detroit’s staff ERA is currently 3.71. You could also submit Davis’ WAR of 3.0 as opposed to Cabrera’s 2.9 mark, but I don’t totally buy into WAR as a stat. I feel that there are a lot of arbitrary things that go into wins, some of which might be unrelated to a given player’s quality.
That aside, I think one could argue that by removing Davis from the Orioles (and thus his 20 homers and his 51 RBIs), the team as a whole wouldn’t be as good. The Orioles pitching staff gives up more runs on average than Detroit’s, thus it would stand to reason that the Orioles wouldn’t have won as many games without Davis. It goes without saying that Detroit wouldn’t have won as many games without Cabrera’s production in the lineup, as well, but I think that they wouldn’t be down as many games given the fact that their pitching staff is stronger.
The MVP is supposed to be the guy that’s the most valuable to his team in the league that year, not necessarily the guy that hits the most homers or drives in the most runs. On that premise, I think that Davis would have to get serious consideration if the season ended today.
Please note that I’m in no way trashing Cabrera or what he means to his team. I personally believe that the Tigers are the best team, top to bottom, in the American League. Jim Leyland has created a culture of winning there that has paid dividends in the standings. But whether or not he’s the most valuable player to his franchise is something that is not so cut and dried.
So will we hear MVP chants at the yard as we progress into the summer when Davis comes to the plate? Count me as one writer that hopes we do. Along with Adam Jones, Manny Machado, et al, Davis has become one of the faces of the Orioles’ return to glory, and that’s something which at some point someone is going to have to stand up and recognize.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.