The skipper’s confidence in his middle-of-the-order hitter

He is the only player on the Orioles roster signed beyond the 2019 season. His contract runs through 2022. When first baseman Chris Davis signed a seven-year deal worth $161 million in January 2016, a lot changed for him. He had incredible financial security for his family’s future, but also the expectations for him would now be higher than ever.

Davis produced 47 homers and a .923 OPS in 2015 that helped get him that contract. But in 2016, he hit 38 homers with an OPS of .792, and last year those numbers were 26 and .732. A downward trend in run production came with a combined 414 strikeouts over that two-year period for Davis. His salary went up, his production went down and that led to constant criticism from a fan base expecting much more.

The offseason gives Davis a chance for a reboot and fresh start in 2018. Late last season, he said he embraced that.

Davis-Dejected-Crouch-White-Sidebar.jpg“I just feel like there were so many nights out there when I was just a name in the lineup,” Davis told reporters in September. “I didn’t feel like I had contributed. Maybe defensively, but definitely not with my bat. 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. 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.”

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 last summer.

During the Winter Meetings in Florida, manager Buck Showalter talked about Davis and his outlook for an improved 2018.

“Obviously Chris’ damage-to-contact ratio is very high,” Showalter said. “I think Chris puts a lot of pressure and lot of expectations on himself to live up to expectations people have for him. I think, as you mature and get into your career, those things get better and better. I think Chris is going to have a good year for us.”

The pressure that comes with the contract is not going to ease for Davis anytime soon.

“You know, people at home are saying, ‘I’d love to have that pressure and that expectation,’ ” Showalter said. “Because it’s not predicated on whether you do well or not - the contract is the contract. But Chris earned that. We and he have to do a better job of getting back to that consistency and that run producer that we know that he can be. His health is going to be good. I think Chris is going to have a big year for us. There are a lot of arrows pointing up for him this year.”

The skipper has been checking in on Davis and Coolbaugh since the season ended.

“Scott and Chris live in the Dallas area and I’m down there a lot with my daughter being there,” Showalter said. “They’ve already been doing a lot of work. He and Scott are not the type of people to blow their own horn and saying, ‘Look what I do.’ It’s, ‘I’m going to show you,’ instead of, ‘Let me trumpet all these things.’ The proof is going to be in the pudding when we start in April.”

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