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Collette Calls: Man On Fire

Jason Collette

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.



Have yourself a week, Chris Davis. He has made the game of baseball look like the game of softball with his numbers dating back into late last season. A few years ago, baseball had fun with Matt Wieters facts as fans patiently waited for the Orioles to promote him. It may be time to do the same with Davis before this fun runs out. Perhaps:


  • Chris Davis eats at Chick Fil A on Sundays.
  • Chris Davis' home runs fly further than North Korea's missiles can fly.
  • Chris Davis can get Democrats and Republicans to compromise.
  • The city of Houston has Chris Davis on retainer when they set a date to demolish the Astrodome.
  • On the seventh day, God rested….in his barcalounger to watch Chris Davis hit a baseball.

Over his last 10 regular season games, Davis has hit an absurd .444/.500/1.361 with 10 home runs, three doubles, and 24 runs driven in in just 36 plate appearances. We have all seen these types of numbers before...when we have maxed the player ratings on our favorite baseball game and then had fun winning games 23 to 0. We saw a similar performance last September from his former teammate, Mark Reynolds, who hit .370/.433/1.581 over a 30 plate appearance stretch as the Orioles further separated themselves from the pack in the Wild Card hunt.

We are but .019 percent into the 2013 season, yet Davis has already hit 10 percent of his 2013 projected home runs while knocking in 12 percent of his projected RBI total. How is this happening?

For his career, Davis has a well-established baseline. In 1,657 career plate appearances, he has walked seven percent of the time while striking out 31 percent of the time. In the three full seasons he has played baseball in the majors, those rates have not waivered much. In 2009, he had a six percent walk rate and a 36 percent strikeout rate. In 2011, between Texas and Baltimore, he posted a five percent walk rate and a 30 percent strikeout rate. Last season, that walk rate bumped up to seven percent while the strikeout rate held steady at 30 percent. What did change last season was a career high HR/FB ratio. In 2009, while playing in the cozy confines of Rangers Ballpark, one of every five flyballs Davis hit left the yard. In 2011, that number fell to one of every 10 and last season, that number spiked back to one of every five.

The simple analysis would be that Davis's HR/FB ratio may suffer a bit of regression and the fact his walk rate barely ticked up and his strikeout rate made him rather volatile in 2013. Despite the opening series against Tampa Bay, that analysis still holds water. If we look over his last 10 games, Davis has walked in five percent of his plate appearances while striking out in 28 percent of them. In the 13 plate appearances he has had so far in 2013, he has but one walk and one strikeout. When you are hot, you are hot and Davis is hitting pitches that most other hitters would not inflict damage with.

During this stretch, teams have pretty much stuck with a consistent attack to Davis and that is to pitch him down and away or come way inside to him. It seems simple enough in execution, but it is not working because he is getting great results even when chasing out of the strike zone. Consider this pitch from Wednesday, when Davis hit a 385 foot opposite field home run off Jeremy Hellickson in the first inning (via BrooksBaseball.net):



Yes, the pitch was elevated, but it was also several inches off the plate and yet Davis had no problem converting it into a souvenir. If we look at his data over at statcorner.com, we find that the Rays tried to pitch around him, but found no success. Rays hurlers threw just 28 percent of their pitches to Davis in the strike zone, but he also made an inordinately high amount of contact with the pitches he chased out of the zone (82 percent) compared to his career rate (55 percent).

Last season, we saw the hot streak with Mark Reynolds go away as quickly as it came on the scene. The fact that 10 of the last 14 flyballs Chris Davis has hit have become home runs is amazing, but you should have fears about its sustainability. While his batted ball outcomes have become increasingly better of late, his peripherals have not moved enough to consider this a permanent change in behavior. This appears to be yet another example of a player "in the zone" who is seeing pitches very well. Josh Hamilton seemingly did this for the first two months of 2012 before taking a downward statistical spiral that went deep into the summer. Davis has the peripherals and the raw power to go either way on this, but players who strike out six times for every one time they walk tend to come back down to earth quicker than others.
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