Ryan Mayer

To say Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has struggled out of the gates this season would be an understatement.

Through 57 games this season, Davis is hitting just .150 with four homers and 15 RBI while posting just a .227 on-base percentage. He’s struck out 86 times which is nearly triple the number of hits (31) that he’s collected this season. This type of performance is not what the O’s were expecting when they signed Davis to a seven-year, $161 million deal after the 2015 season.

Based on his performance to date, Davis is on pace to finish the season hitting .150/.225/.221 with nine homers, 36 RBI and 211 strike outs against just 46 walks. In that pacing, he would tally approximately 76 hits over the course of the full season. Based on his average annual salary of $23 million under the terms of his new contract, that means that the Orioles would be paying approximately: $300,000 per hit, $638,000 per RBI and $2.5 million per home run this season.

In the updated ZIPS projections on FanGraphs, they’re not expecting much better from Davis over the course of the rest of the season as they project him to finish with a .182/.267/.328 slash line, 19 homers, 46 RBI and 88 hits with 203 strikeouts in 135 games played and 548 plate appearances.

Historically, those projections would place Davis as having one of the worst seasons of all-time among players qualified for their league’s batting title (more than 500 plate appearances) according to Baseball-Reference. The worst season of the expansion era for a hitter with more than 500 plate appearances currently belongs to Don Wert, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers in 1968, when he hit exactly .200 with 12 homers and 47 RBI. Interestingly enough, Wert made the American League All-Star team in that season. Unquestionably the same won’t be said for Davis this year.

Davis isn’t the only former All-Star slugger that’s been unable to find his previous form this season. Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano was recently demoted all the way down to Single-A. Sano was hitting .203/.270/.405 with seven homers and 27 RBI this season but as WJZ’s Mark Viviano notes, the Twins had the option to send him to the minors to try and correct his issues. That’s a luxury the Orioles do not have.

Either way, Davis has another four years and $92 million left on his contract, which looks more and more like an albatross by the day.

Comments (21)
  1. 500 ABs seems somewhat arbitrary for a qualifier, especially since qualifying for the batting title is based on 502 plate appearances. Rob Deer and Dan Uggla both batted .179 in a qualifying season. Deer hit 25 HRs and drove in 64 runs, to go along with 80 total hits in 1991. Uggla hit 22 HRs and drove in 55 runs, also with 80 total hits. Interestingly enough, Wert actually posted a positive WAR for that dismal hitting season due to some decent defense.

    Davis is currently so bad that his WAR is on pace to challenge the all-time worst WAR for a season in MLB history. He’s currently at -2.2 on Baseball Reference and -1.9 on Fangraphs. Granted, WAR is more heavily weighted on hitting for first basemen (bat-first position) but it’s still historically bad, no matter what measure you use. To qualify, he’s well on pace as he’s averaging over 3.4 PAs per Orioles game. He’ll have to be benched quite a bit to not qualify, and for $161 million I don’t expect his butt to warm a seat as much as it should.

  2. If I were him I wouldn’t drink anything but factory sealed bottled water, I wouldn’t eat anything anywhere any member of the team’s administration and I would get drug tested weekly just to make sure.

  3. Does Chris Davis’ contract prohibit the team from sending him to the minors? That is the absolute worst aspect of modern baseball contracts. This entitled star must eat up a roster spot despite his performance. It’s bad enough contracts have ruined seeing a game for average middle class families (can’t afford it), but forcing a team to have them on the roster? Are they going to force the teams to play them next despite their performance on the field? What A Nightmare.

    1. It has nothing to do with his contract. The number of minor league options a player has is set by the labor contract the players’ union has with the league. Since Davis is out of options, the Orioles can’t send him to the minors without exposing him to the waver wire first, thereby taking the risk that another team might snag him.

      On the other hand, it *could* be spelled out either in his contract or the union’s CBA that he can refuse an assignment to the minors, depending on how many years he has accrued in the majors. Bottom line, it’s just as likely that the team is hamstrung by the collect bargaining agreement with the union as not.

  4. Brian Lucas says:

    Sounds almost as bad as our Detroit Tigers albatross: Miguel Cabrera.

  5. Davis will return to form and hit 50 hrs bat .280 Go O-no’s 2019!

    1. 50 homeruns was a once in lifetime for Chris.He can not return to that form because it was a fluke season. Look at all the years of his career. If I were him I would pull a Brian Robert’s: slide head first and play out your years on the DL.

  6. Steve Hansen says:

    Chris Davis seems like a very nice person and good teammate but his free agent contract is close to being one of the worst of all time – and there have been some real doozies over the years. What’s troubling is he doesn’t seem to want to make any changes to address his horrible hitting – he’s just asking for understanding from the fans. If the O’s leadership doesn’t sit him down and get in his face he’s not going to do anything on his end to change things.

  7. Jerome Barry says:

    Not my money. Not my problem.

    1. Indirectly, it is your money. His salary is being paid by advertisers and that cost is rolled up into the price of their products.

  8. If it were earlier in the season, I’d say Chris needed to get back on the PEDs. But Baltimore is so horrible, he might as well ride it out and see if he can get an exception next year for Adderall. It might help him regain his form.

  9. $161M to play a game is INSANITY!

  10. tngilmer says:

    Professional athletes should be paid like salesmen — on a commission based on their production.

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