The Baltimore Orioles have apparently decided to get in the way of history. For now, Chris Davis will not continue his campaign for the worst MLB season of all time.
The Orioles benched Davis for a fourth straight game on Saturday, mercifully keeping a .150/.227/.227 hitter out of the lineup as the team tries to dig its way out of a 19-50 start to its season. According to MLB.com, Davis will be benched indefinitely, though manager Buck Showalter said that he doesn’t expect Davis’ absence to last more than a week or two.
With Davis down, the Orioles have been starting a combination of Trey Mancini and 29-year-old rookie Corban Joseph in his stead at first base.
Chris Davis’ historically bad season
So, yeah, this is where we’re supposed to go through just how bad Davis has been this season. There are plenty of words that could be used to describe such a performance, like putrid, awful or catastrophic, but the best way to get to the bottom of this is to just look at the numbers.
First, it’s important to remember that Davis sees almost all of his time at first base, the lowest position on the defensive spectrum. So even if Davis was an elite defensive first baseman (he isn’t), almost all of his value would come on offense. And in this case, that value is negative to a staggering degree. Through two and a half months of the season, Davis sits at -2.2 bWAR, far away the worst in the majors. Funnily enough, No. 2 on the ignominious list entering Saturday was Mancini at -1.3 bWAR, who has started at first base in three of four games since Davis’ benching.
As far as traditional numbers, Davis ranks last in the majors among qualified hitters in batting average (.150), second to last in on-base percentage (.227), last in slugging percentage (.227) and third to last in isolated slugging (.077), behind middle infielders Dee Gordon and Jose Peraza. Meanwhile, Davis ranks first in strikeout rate (37.6 percent).
If this continues, Davis is well on pace for the worst season in baseball history, as Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan shows. It’s at the point where a Baltimore bar is offering free shots every time Davis gets a hit. So far, the bar has’t been taken up on its offer, but that’s because Davis hasn’t played since the promotion began.
Folks, it’s bad.
It gets worse for the Orioles
We’ve talked enough bout Davis’ performance, now let’s talk about his salary.
It’s $23 million. And it will be $23 million next season and the three seasons after that. In total, the Orioles owe Davis a guaranteed $92 million over four years after this season. They could conceivably negotiate a buy-out if both parties think they can find more success elsewhere, but Davis likely isn’t giving up that much money.
And to be clear, that’s on the Orioles, who made the decision to give Davis a seven-year, $161 million extension, and not on Davis, who has the right to accept money offered to him. Once upon a time, Davis was a two-time AL home run champion who had real value. That’s what makes his slide so sad, while the owed money makes it difficult to stop for the Orioles. A team won’t let you be this bad for this long unless you were pretty good beforehand.
Where Chris Davis can go from here
Even if Davis can begin on a clean slate, it’s hard to see him every returning to even close to his old level of play. He was always a big strikeout guy, even in his prime, he now sees a heavy infield shift in the vast majority of his plate appearances and Father Time will be no help to the 32-year-old.
Davis is still working out at team facilities and Showalter said that he will be put back in the lineup once the Orioles decision makers believe it’s time, according to ESPN.
“I talked to Chris before I came down here just to let him know, in case you guys were asking what the approach is. And he already knew that before today. But he was soaking wet when I was talking to him. He’s working on some things and they’ll let me know when it’s time.”
The Orioles can only hope that the time off is enough for Davis to clear his head and maybe find a new approach. But that is much easier said than done.
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