It’s time for Chris Davis to get back to his former self.
That’s the strategy the Orioles’ slugger is employing this offseason after several tumultuous years.
Davis’ main focus is getting stronger and back to a similar size when he was hitting 40 or 50 home runs per year. He wants to let his natural ability take over as opposed to dramatically changing his mechanics at the plate.
“I don’t think at this point of my career that I’m going to be a guy that is going to crouch down, or close off or anything like that, nothing drastic,” Davis said Jan. 23 on the Orioles Hot Stove Show on 105.7 The Fan. “I do think there are some things I needed to tend to that I kind of experimented over the years. One of those is just strength. My overall strength and weight.”
Davis signed a seven-year, $161 million contract in 2016, with $42 million deferred from 2032-2037. His production has steadily gone down each year since inking that historic deal.
He has endured another frustrating season in 2019, slashing .179/.276/.326 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs during 105 games (352 plate appearances). In April, Davis snapped a major-league record 0-for-54 skid when he lined a single to right field against the Boston Red Sox.
Davis, who turns 34 March 17, led the league with 53 homers in 2013 and again in 2015 with 47. The 6-foot-3 Davis has consistently weighed around 230 pounds during his most productive seasons. In the past few years, he has focused on slimming down but has now turned his attention back to strength training.
“We looked at a lot of video from the past and one of the first things that Mike [Elias] and Brandon [Hyde] and actually Tim Cossins, couple of our coaches said, ‘Man, you looked a lot bigger when you were younger,'” Davis said. “And I said the older I’ve gotten I’ve tried to keep my weight down, thinking that it would be more beneficial to my body. Just thinking that as you get older, your joints, your ligaments, they tend to carry less weight a little bit better.
“And for me, I’ve got to be strong. That’s always been my kind of been my forte. If I feel like I can hit any pitch at any time out of any part of the ballpark, I’m not going to go up there and overswing. I’m not going to do some things that I’ve really done in the past to kind of shoot myself in the foot.”
In August, Hyde said Davis was going to get less playing time for the remainder of the season because the team wanted to get a look at some younger talent. Davis was slashing .179/.270/.312 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 90 games at the time. He also had a stretch of striking out 14 times in a 10-game span.
“I think there are people we want to see and there’s at-bats that we want to give to guys,” Hyde said. “I’m just going to continue to pick my spots with CD, and we’ve had conversations about it.”
Davis used the time wisely and focused on his training regimen. He began putting together the building blocks of his offseason plan and has remained focused on his goal of regaining his production.
“The physical aspect of it, the weight training, the conditioning, the nutrition was a huge part of it. I actually had a chance to start that at the end of the season,” Davis said. “I wasn’t playing everyday, obviously. That actually gave me a chance to start that routine and formulate some kind of regiment that I could carry into the offseason. I really like where I’m at right now. I feel like my weight is back up. I feel strong again. I feel like I have my legs underneath me and I think it’s going to be a good year. I really do.”
In addition to the physical aspect of the game, Davis will also change his approach at the plate and do a better job of taking advantage of his power. In 2015, when he hit 47 homers, 54.9 percent of his batted balls were pulled, according to Baseball Savant. In 2019, that was down to 36.8 percent.
Once again, it’s a matter of simplifying his approach.
“A lot of it is just a reaction,” Davis said. “I’ve been around the game long enough to know what I can do and what I can’t do. I think the competition has enough information on me right now to know I can do a lot of damage to the opposite field. For me, really the point of emphasis going into this offseason was getting back to that approach and really letting the ball travel. I think back to the years where I had the most success, I was really driving the ball well the other way. In order to do that, you have to let the ball travel. And what I mean by that is you have to let the ball get deep.
“You have to let the ball come to you and any contact that I make out in front of the plate, with the exception of a pitch that is way inside or kind of boring in on me, it’s not going to be beneficial to me, it’s not going to be a productive out if it is an out. I want to try to keep the ball off the ground on the right side for a number of reasons. But really letting the ball travel plays right into my game. I think a lot of that had to do with the strength factor.”
Finally, Davis also has made strides improving his mental approach to the game. He is admittedly frustrated by his lack of production. A healing process has begun and Davis is optimistic about the future.
“Mentally, I’m just in a much better place,” he said. “I’ve got my confidence back. I’ll be the first one to tell you, the last few years I would go to the field and I just didn’t feel like I was myself. There’s a lot to that, but I’m excited about this season and I’m excited about some of the young guys that are going to be at camp and I look forward to working with them.”
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