Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Old Chris Davis replaces the new Chris Davis

Chris Davis got off to a hot start, hitting .310/.359/.563 in 71 at-bats. Compared to a career .254/.303/.449 line, that seemed pretty good. Unfortunately, that solid start to the season is likely yet another case of small sample size, as he's started to look like the Chris Davis we were already familiar with.

In May, Davis is hitting .217/.250/.304 in 46 at-bats and has looked lost at the plate. He always strikes out a lot, but he's doing so at a more rapid rate than even for him, while walking just one time in May. Plate discipline has never been an elite skill for Davis, but a 35.4 K% and a 2.1 BB% (in May) is absurdly bad.

And even though FanGraphs somehow has Davis with a positive UZR (0.5 UZR, 3.3 UZR/150), his defense at first base is also becoming an issue. He committed his third error last night while the bases were loaded, allowing two runs to score. He also misplayed another ground ball earlier in the game, which could have started a double play. Instead, Davis barely recorded the out at first. He's also missed several scoop opportunities to save other infielders errors, which is what every slick-handed first baseman does. Even when Mark Teixeira isn't hitting for the Yankees, he still provides very good defense at first. It would be nice if the O's had that sort of luxury.

Really, the O's don't have many options at first right now besides Davis. That's something that was evident going into the season. Wilson Betemit can play there, but he's looked rather helpless at both corner infield positions. And, obviously, he is not an outfielder. Nick Johnson can play some first, but he's probably not much of an improvement over Davis. Mark Reynolds, who's on the disabled list with a strained oblique, may be the team's best option at first base, but that's not saying a whole lot either. None of the four is a great defensive player, and every time the ball is hit to any of them, there's a worry that a defensive miscue is about to follow.

Technically, anyone can play first base. Davis Ortiz can play first. That doesn't mean it's something that a team wants to happen.