Chris Davis currently leads the big leagues with 42 home runs. His .263/.358/.562 triple slash heading into Monday’s game equates to a 148 wRC+ and .389 wOBA, both ranking in the top-10 of qualified hitters. So why am I down on the left-handed hitting masher? Davis is doing his usual dominant performance against right-handed pitchers, however this season he’s crushing southpaws too. It’s a new development and is worth checking out, even in the limited context of a single season platoon split.
The table below displays Davis’ numbers against left-handers from 2008 through 2014 compared to this season. Admittedly the sample size difference is significant, but the table highlights how much better he’s been this year than in previous seasons.
His numbers are up across the board when compared to his pre-2015 career average. For a bit of context, in the previous seven seasons Davis’ 92 wRC+ is identical to what Nate Schierholtz posted and atick below the 93 wRC+ Nyjer Morgan put up over the same time frame. This year’s revelation has seen Davis swat left-handers the way Andrew McCutchen or Jose Bautista hit everyone. That’s the gap in performance. To his credit, he is drawing more walks and whiffing less however it is still at a below league average (for non-pitchers) rate against lefties. As one may have already suspected, BABIP and to a lesser extant quality of contact have had an effect on Davis’ numbers.
The biggest difference is the BABIP, and I feel comfortable betting that Davis won’t continue to post that sort of rate against southpaws for much longer. But what I find more interesting is that despite the defensive shift almost continually be put on him, Davis has pulled more balls at a higher rate than normal. I guess when bunts like this happen, even five days after a great bunt, he is a bit more hesitant. Those are the only two successful bunts Davis has laid down this year and the only two he’s attempted. If we saw his Pull% drop 10 percent rather than climb due to more bunts designed to beat the shift, I could begin to buy into the new splits a bit.
Power in baseball has bounce backed a bit this year after 2014 posted a 15-year low in the home run department and Davis’ batting history doesn’t make me believe he’ll suddenly be a .300 — or even .275 — AVG type guy. It depends where he signs as a free agent, though he’ll be a 30-year-old by the time the 2016 season starts, but it’s hard to imagine a home that suits him better than Baltimore. FanGraphs rated Camden as the third best hitter’s park for lefties with home run power last season, StatCorner rates it as fourth best for left-handed sluggers and while ESPN doesn’t split their park factors into separate handedness, they have Camden as the second best place to hit dingers.
If we replace Davis’ 2015 numbers against lefties and replace it with his 2008-14 numbers, his overall line drops to a 131 wRC+ and a .367 wOBA. Still excellent production, and it depends on the budget or draft pick formats, keeper inflation, etc., but if you were pondering keeping Davis at a high cost, I’d advise against it as he seems very unlikely to reproduce his 2015 campaign against lefties. Spend your early round picks or big bucks on someone younger and depending on where Davis signs, a possibly better ballpark.
You can follow David on Twitter.