Improving their starting rotation is the biggest issue facing the Orioles as the offseason begins. But that is not the only one.
In 2016, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo combined for 85 homers and 192 RBIs. This season they combined for 49 homers and 126 RBIs. Add to that Manny Machado’s slow first half and the middle of the Orioles order too often came up short.
Bounceback seasons by Davis and Trumbo next year would go a long way toward helping an offense that fell off a bit overall in 2017. While the Orioles hit for a slightly higher team batting average this season (.260 to .256) the team fell from ninth to 13th in the league in OBP, from second to fifth in slugging, from first to fifth in homers and from seventh to ninth in runs scored.
More offense will be needed to get back to the playoffs and the Davis/Trumbo duo will have to fare better next year.
From 2012 through 2016, Davis averaged a slash line of .249/.340/.518. He led the majors with 197 homers and ranked fifth in RBIs, 13th in slugging and 22nd in OPS in those five years. Last season, he hit .215/.309/.423 with 26 homers and 61 RBIs. Those are his lowest homer and RBI totals since 2014.
In addition, Davis’ walk rate decreased from 13.2 percent to 11.6 percent and his strikeout rate increased from 32.9 percent to 37.2 percent.
This may surprise some, but Davis swung and missed 14.2 percent of pitches he saw in 2017, the second-lowest rate of his career. But he swung at just 60 percent of strikes he saw, a career low. He has often swung at somewhere in the low to mid-70s in this stat. Yes, he left the bat on his shoulder way too much this year.
In this interview, Davis said: “It hasn’t been a fun season for the most part, but definitely looking forward to the offseason, getting a chance to recharge, regroup and reset my sights. There are definitely some things that I want to work on as far as mechanics are concerned at the plate. ... I just feel like there were so many nights out there when I was just a name in the lineup. I didn’t feel like I had contributed. Maybe defensively, but definitely not with my bat.”
Davis said he needs to make some swing adjustments for next year.
“I’ve already had several conversations with Cooley (hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh) about things that I want to try, things that I want to do to keep myself in a better position and not have so much head movement in my swing,” he said. “It’s kind of been my downfall throughout my whole career. So I’m excited about this offseason and things that I really want to work on.”
As for Trumbo, from 2012 through 2016, he averaged .252/.307/.474 with 149 homers, to rank 10th in the majors for those five years, and 428 RBIs, to rank 19th. He was top 20 in both over that time, so some improvement seems reasonable off a 2017 season where he hit .234/.289/.397. Trumbo’s OPS was .781 from 2012-16 and was .686 last season, including a .600 mark in the second half. He fell from 47 homers and 108 RBIs in 2016 to 23 home runs and 65 RBIs.
For this story and interview, Trumbo said of his 2017 season: “I feel like I was unable to really get any kind of momentum going. Few small stretches. Just couldn’t really synch the swing up. That not only doesn’t allow you to put together some hot stretches, you are constantly missing your pitches and buried in the count.
“I felt like just way too often this year I’d get something to work with and foul it off. Usually that is where the at-bats go south: if you miss your pitch. ... So got some ideas about how I want to attack the offseason. I know physically, bat speed and everything feels fine, so it’s a matter of shoring up a few things that weren’t as good this year.”
While Davis is certainly a better defender than Trumbo and brings some value there, he is still the focal point for fan criticism. That comes mostly due to the seven-year contract worth $161 million he signed in January 2016. He’s being paid a lot and expected to deliver a lot.
When the homers fall off, the strikeouts get noticed more. When he takes another called third strike, some fans get irate. They call for him to be benched and/or dropped in the order. Maybe next season, manager Buck Showalter will either have to start the year batting Davis sixth or seventh or be open to dropping him down the lineup sooner if he gets off to a slow start.
Trumbo and Davis need to use this winter to find whatever was missing this season. The run production falloff was too vast. More will be expected and needs to be delivered by both in the 2018 season.