We’ve seen Chris Davis hit home runs with a broken bat and with one hand. He’s pulled them over the right field wall and flicked them the opposite way. He’s launched towering fly balls out of the yard and hit screaming line drives just over the top of outfield fences. We’ve seen 101 home runs come off Davis’ bat in his six years in the big leagues and they have come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Baseball’s league leader in the longball category has obviously been a topic of conversation when it comes to the 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby. American League captain Robinson Cano, who won the event in 2011 in Phoenix, would have to invite Davis to join his team. In a recent fan poll on MLB.com, Davis received enough write-in votes to crack the top 10 list.
Davis has been outspoken about wanting to participate in the derby, saying he’d like to do it for the fans. I don’t doubt his ability to make a serious run or even win the darn thing, but I’m not particularly fond of watching him take huge home run swings for four hours because I believe it could affect his production in the second half of the season.
I certainly understand that casual fans enjoy watching the game’s best home run hitters gather together and launch balls out of the park on this special night each year. They even put up with Chris Berman’s play-by-play to enjoy the spectacle of baseball greats. Personally, I enjoy watching the event, but hope that Davis doesn’t participate. It’s much more important for me to see him launching homers down the stretch in the September and, hopefully, into the postseason in October, than at Citi Field on July 15.
Davis doesn’t appear worried that participating in the competition would have an adverse effect on his second half. That’s understandable. He’s a professional athlete with almost 2,000 plate appearances under his belt, but I am a concerned about the effects participating in the derby may have on the O’s best power hitter. Ask Bobby Abreu how it worked out for him in 2005 (.307/.428/.526, 18 home runs before the All-Star break, .260/.376/.411, six home runs after).
Despite Davis’ remarkable power numbers this season, we’ve seen him scuffle at the plate and then make adjustments to get his swing back to normal. On the Orioles’ previous road trip to Houston and Tampa Bay, Davis went 5-for-26 with no homers, no walks and 11 strikeouts. As he went deeper into this mini-slump, Davis seemed to try and crush any fastball remotely close to the plate.
In the Orioles’ seven-game homestand, Davis’ patience at the plate returned and he went 8-for-26 with three home runs, three walks and eight strikeouts. Jim Palmer talked in depth on the MASN broadcast in game three against the Angels about the work Davis had put in with hitting coach Jim Presley after the road trip. Palmer commented that Davis was working off a tee an hour before any of the other players arrived to the park.
The most astonishing part about Davis’ power surge this season has been the lack of effort he seems to put into hitting balls out of the ballpark. He has a nice, fluid swing and with solid contact. Davis is simply strong enough to push balls out of the yard that most hitters are unable to carry to the warning track. It’s effortless because Davis is putting the middle of the bat on the ball and his Hulk-like strength is what has caused 24 balls to leave ballparks this season. I have to think that just focusing on crushing pitches during the Home Run Derby would have the same effect Davis’ mini-slump in Houston and Tampa Bay had on his swing.
Call me nervous if you want. I’m an Orioles fan who wakes up every day hoping my favorite team continues to stay in the race in baseball’s toughest division. If that means keeping Davis out of a meaningless session of extended batting practice, so be it.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views 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.