Orioles slugger Chris Davis finished third in the balloting for the American League MVP Award in 2013 after launching 56 home runs and amassing 138 RBI, but he took a major step back last year by batting just .196/.300/.404 over 127 games before he was handed a season-ending 25-game suspension for amphetamine use. While Davis saw his strikeout rate increase by 3.4 percent from 2013, he was also one of the biggest victims of increased defensive shifts around MLB. According to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com, Davis wants to be better prepared this year:
“I think there are definitely situations where I need to bunt, and I know there was some frustration last year obviously with my batting average being as low as it was – not only on my part but the fan base and maybe even on some of my teammates’ part – as far as me hitting into the shift,” Davis said earlier this week on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.
“First of all, when you’re not swinging the bat well and you’re kind of trying to find it, for me, I want to go up there and have an at-bat. I don’t want to just lay a bunt down. There were times last year when I did lay a bunt down, but for me it’s really a comfort thing. It’s different going out there and working off a machine or even a BP arm and laying balls down the third base line and going into a game and doing it. For me, it was just a comfort thing and I have worked on it this offseason. I’ve probably worked on it more this offseason than I have in the past. If it’s a one-run game, I’m probably not going to lay one down, but there are situations where unselfishly it’s probably the best thing to do. It’s definitely a weapon I can use against other teams.
According to Baseball Reference, Davis had one bunt hit last season. Simply changing your approach to use all fields is easier said than done, so if Davis sees the same extreme infield shifts again in 2015, he’s essentially being offered a free base if he can drop one down the third base line. You probably don’t want him doing that with runners on base, as the Orioles are counting on him to drive in runs, but it’s something that would be interesting to see on occasion. Same goes for other victims of the shift, like Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees. Defensive shifts aren’t going anywhere, despite some brief discussion on the matter last month, so hitters need to think of ways to neutralize it.