BY L.E. MILLER, @LEMillerBMore
I don't want to hate on Chris Davis, believe me. When the big Texan came over in 2011 he really piqued my interest. His breakout 2012 ended up being a huge part of the Orioles breaking the 14-year losing streak, and his 2013 was one for the Orioles record books. He got paid way too much for a player that goes on year-long cold steaks, but he's a good player.
But, Buck, we really have to talk about this Chris Davis still batting cleanup business. While Davis hasn't quite fallen to depths of his 2014 campaign, he's been stuck in this slump longer. Entering Monday night's game Davis has had 1,003 plate appearances since the start of 2016 slashing just .219/.327/.453. This translates to just a 108 OPS+ and .780 OPS. In this time he's struck out a 344 times...a staggering 40 percent his 860 ABs.
It would be one thing if the big guy looked like he was turning the corner – but he doesn't. Dating all the way back to May 1, Davis has slashed just .209/.309/.450 while striking out 43 percent of the time. Numbers that make his disappointing 2016 campaign look like a hot streak.
But the homers!
Lets nip that in the bud real quick. Chris Davis' .440 slugging percentage is good for just seventh on the team. Of qualified hitters on the Orioles roster Davis ranks just seventh in OPS at .756, and he ranks sixth in OBP at .317. Those are the qualified hitters, but at this point even Caleb Joseph has a higher SLG% than Davis this year.
Due to Davis' streaky nature it stands to reason that, yes, he will probably start hitting again at some point. Could be next week. Could be after the All-Star break in 2018. Impossible to tell. He's had multi-year slumps before – that's how the Orioles got him for cheap in the first place.
But the Orioles can't just leave him in the four hole until that happens just because...what? They are paying him the most money so they want to pretend he's performing at the 2013 levels they were hoping for? Because Buck Showalter likes him a lot? Those are reasons for a talk radio host to defend a player, not reasons for a team to blindly surrender production in the middle of the lineup.
Is there any reason that Davis can't get his groove back in a lower-pressure role at 6th in the lineup? Egos? If it's a matter of Davis' veteran status, that's got to go out the window when you're 1.5 games out of a playoff spot and your slump has now crossed 1,000 plate appearances.
I don't even know why we're having this conversation. To me this is ridiculous. We can try to psychoanalyze the Birds all day. We could break down every stat. Chris Davis hasn't consistently shown to be anything more than a slightly above average hitter since 2015. Simply bat him sixth. It's not like this is a difficult argument about whether a veteran needs to be benched or not. We'll be having that argument soon enough with Hardy.
(Stats current as of 8/6, Baseball Reference)