Chris Davis was further phased out of the Rangers’ plans two years ago by the Adrian Beltre signing. Now an Oriole, he watched Wednesday as Beltre hit three homers against his club in a Rangers rout. Davis, though, didn’t take it lying down. He joined Beltre and became the ninth player this year to hit three homers a game Friday in Baltimore’s 6-4 win over Toronto.
Davis homered twice off starter Carlos Villanueva and once off Steve Delabar to up his season total to 23 homers. While he has an ugly 132/26 K/BB ratio in 402 at-bats, he has hit an adequate .256 and driven in 64 runs.
The Orioles gave Davis a look at third base after picking him up in last summer’s Koji Uehara deal, but they’ve kept him away from the hot corner this season. He’s started 38 games at first, 15 in right and 11 in left, while also doing plenty of DHing.
Of course, he also famously picked up a win in relief in a game against the Red Sox in which he went 0-for-8 as a hitter.
The Orioles don’t figure to bring back Mark Reynolds next year — having both he and Davis in the lineup has altered wind patterns in the greater Baltimore area — so Davis could wind up as the team’s primary first baseman. He’ll further enhance his case if he makes a run at 30 homers next month.
“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.
Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?
There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.
As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.