COMMENTARY | Even though his 33 home runs in 2012 were the eighth-best mark in the American League, it would still be fair to say that the Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis came out of nowhere to be perhaps the league's best hitter in the early going of 2013.
Whether or not Davis could hit for power has never been a question. He's as big and strong as hitters come. But before this year, Davis has often struggled with his discipline at the plate. Not anymore.
If Davis, 27, hopes to continue being the offensive force he has so far established himself as this season, he will need to continue doing the one thing that all good hitters must do, something that is much easier said than done -- he needs to get a good pitch to hit.
In 2012, Davis struck out 169 times, and his 4.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the third highest in the league. When he hit the ball, it was likely to be hit hard. But the problem was that he swung at too many pitchers' pitches.
During the playoffs last season, Davis was an easy out. He basically swung at everything the opposing team offered, so, naturally, they stopped offering strikes. That, however, did not stop Davis from swinging; he struck out nine times in six playoff games, picking up only one walk.
Despite these October struggles, since the season began this year, Davis has been a different hitter. After 65 games, he has cut his strikeout-to-walk ratio more than in half, and his new mark of 2.1 Ks to walks isn't even in the top 40 of the league. His on-base percentage has also jumped significantly, going from .326 in 2012 to .417 this season.
For those who watch Davis every day, the difference has been night and day. Countless times this season we have watched him take pitches that in the past he would certainly have offered at, only to get a better pitch later in the at-bat and drive it. It has been, in a word, beautiful.
If Davis continues being the disciplined hitter he has been to this point in 2013, there is absolutely no reason not to expect him to continue putting up gaudy numbers. If he goes back to swinging at pitches he can't drive, his numbers will surely fall off.
Davis still has the strength he's always possessed, but now he looks like a real hitter, too. And when a guy like Chris Davis combines talent with maturity, you have a very, very dangerous man on your hands.
Joe Cooney has been a professional baseball writer for nearly 20 years, covering the Orioles, Rockies, Cubs and more. He grew up and still lives near Baltimore, Md.
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