After big years in 2013 and 2015, can Chris Davis add 2017 to list?

A player that has hit 47 homers or more twice in his Orioles career and one that signed a huge contract 14 months ago is bound to be a focal point for opponent pitchers and under a huge spotlight with his own fans.

That is life for Orioles first baseman Chris Davis. Recently, I wrote here how center fielder Adam Jones could produce better stats in 2017 than he did in 2016, and Davis also fits in that category.

A middle-of-the-order hitter that is expected to produce plenty of runs, Davis is watched closely by his own fans. They get frustrated when he strikes out, marvel when he hits a ball 450 feet and are relieved he’s out there when he digs another ball out of the dirt at first base.

Davis has produced two of the biggest single-season homer totals in team history:
53 - Chris Davis in 2013
50 - Brady Anderson in 1996
49 - Frank Robinson in 1966
47 - Chris Davis in 2015, Mark Trumbo in 2016

Chris-Davis-gray-close.pngBut despite hitting 38 homers last summer (only seven American League players hit more), Davis’ overall stats took a hit from 2015 to 2016. This was magnified by the fact that Davis signed a seven-year contract for $161 million in January 2016. But Davis produced just 2.7 Wins Above Replacement in 2016 after recording a 5.6 WAR in 2015 and 7.0 in 2013. A potential contributing factor was a left hand injury that hampered Davis during the season, one that is now finally fully healed.

Davis’ stats the last two years:
2015: .262 average, .361 OBP, .562 slugging, .923 OPS, 47 HR, 117 RBIs, 100 runs, 208 strikeouts
2016: .221 average, .332 OBP, .459 slugging, .792 OPS, 38 HR, 84 RBIs, 99 runs, 219 strikeouts

In the first year of his new contract, Davis hit nine fewer homers, drove in 33 fewer runs, saw his slugging drop 103 points and his OPS drop 131 points.

Since 2012, Davis leads the majors with 197 homers and ranks fifth with 496 RBIs. In that time, he has hit .249/.340/.518 with an OPS of .858, averaging 39.4 homers and 99.2 RBIs per year. So his 2016 season fell short of his strong five-year average of his stats since 2012.

Davis’ strikeouts frustrate fans and his strikeout rate of 32.9 percent last year led all qualifying hitters in the major leagues. It was a tick below his career-high mark of 33.0 in 2014 and higher than his rate of 29.6 during his big 2013 season.

But Davis also draws walks better than any Oriole. His walk rate of 13.2 in 2016 was his career best and ranked 13th in the majors among qualifying batters. The Nationals’ Bryce Harper led all hitters with a 17.2 percent walk rate and the Angels’ Mike Trout ranked second at 17.0. Davis’ rate has increased from 11.4 in 2014 to 12.5 the following season and to 13.2 last year.

Another area where Davis can add more production is batting with runners in scoring position. In his two best O’s seasons, he has thrived in that stat.

Davis with RISP:
2013: Average of .343
2014: Average of .237
2015: Average of .289
2016: Average of .194

Davis has produced big stats every other year as an Oriole. He hit 53 homers, drove in 138 runs and had an OPS of 1.004 in 2013. Two years later, he hit 47 homers, drove in 117 runs and produced an OPS of .923. Is he poised for another big year in 2017?

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