Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Power of Chris Davis

I was reading Rick Reilly’s column on Chris Davis and PEDs earlier today and one of the points he made rubbed me the wrong way.

Reilly wrote:

Davis can explain everything, of course. He says he went from Bernie Williams to Ted Williams because "I'm just making more consistent contact," he says. Also, he switched to a bigger bat. And he fixed a couple of holes in his swing.

But this is a guy who's spent most of his career bouncing from the bushes to the bigs. In fact, in four seasons of facing Triple-A pitching, he hit only 54 home runs. Now, in one major league season, he's on pace to hit 62? That must be some new bat.

The first paragraph is quoted mainly for context so the snarky comment at the end about the bat makes sense. The part that bothered me is the second sentence of the second paragraph. It’s true that Davis spent four seasons in Triple-A (2008-11) with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, and it’s also true that he hit 54 Triple-A homeruns in those four seasons.

Reilly conveniently left out, however, that Davis only played PARTS of those four seasons in Triple-A. A full season at that level consists of 140 games. That means from 2008-11, Davis’s teams played 560 games. Fifty-four homeruns in 560 games is definitely nowhere near as impressive as 32 in 84 games.

But here’s the thing: out of those 560 games, how many did Davis appear in?

Just 226, or about a season and a half.

In the same time frame, he hit 44 homeruns in 297 major league games and 13 homeruns in 48 games at Double-A, for a grand total of 111 homeruns in 571 games over those four seasons.

If you want to break it down by season, we can do that too. In 2008, he hit 40 homeruns across three levels. In 2009, he hit 27. In 2010, he slumped to 15. In 2011, he bounced back with 29. That’s a pretty solid run, and it doesn’t even include terrific seasons just outside the boundaries of the stretch defined by Reilly (Davis had 36 homeruns between High-A/Double-A in 2007 and 33 in the majors with Baltimore last year).

This year is off the charts so far (I haven’t even gotten into the guys who enjoyed remarkable first halves only to fall off a cliff after the break; Reggie Jackson in 1969 and Kevin Mitchell in 1989 spring to mind), but the fact is that Davis has always been a pretty good power hitter.

I don’t know if Chris Davis uses steroids or not and I don’t particularly care, but if you’re gonna attempt to illustrate your point by pointing out one seeming deficiency in his statistical record, it might behoove you to dig just a bit deeper and see if that deficiency actually exists or if you’re just bending the available information in a way that helps make you look right.

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