The 2019 season did not go as planned for Oakland Athletics slugger Khris Davis, but is the designated hitter a rebound candidate?
From 2015-2018, Davis posted a .247/.323/.528 line (129 OPS+) with 160 home runs, 401 RBI, and 328 runs scored. During this time, Davis has not been afraid to swing-and-miss either as evidenced by his 27.9 percent strikeout rate, but that is often one of the tradeoffs with a power hitter.
Davis has been known not only for his home run pop but his remarkably consistent batting average over that same time span. He has posted a .247 batting average in each of those four seasons.
Though, his power is more notable than his batting average.
This type of consistency scored Davis a two-year, $33.5 million contract extension early in 2019 that will keep him in the Green and Gold until 2021.
However, on the field, the 2019 season was a different story for the slugger. On the heels of that extension, Davis generated a meager .220/.293/.387 line (82 OPS+) with 23 home runs and 73 RBI across 533 plate appearances.
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In addition to this, Davis was worth -0.3 WAR, but he is ready to turn the page on a new season, whenever that begins.
Durability was an issue in 2019 as he battled oblique and hand injuries that limited him to just 133 games. Prior to that, Davis had appeared in over 150 games in every season with the A’s.
The hand injury, in particular, could have sapped Davis’ power last year. The Athletics’ designated hitter struggled to get the ball in the air. His 37.4 percent fly-ball rate was the lowest figure he has generated since a 36.9 percent mark he produced as a rookie back in 2013.
Why is this a concern?
The decline in his fly ball rate translated to an increasing ground ball rate. The 42.1 percent ground ball he produced in 2019 indicates he was not able to impact the ball at his normal launch angle. High ground ball rates are concerning as more players are trying to create loft in their swing.
It is fair to speculate that injuries played a role in this. If healthy, Davis should return to his normal powerful form while posting the same .247 batting average.
When baseball was actually happening and spring training was underway, Davis was slowed a bit by a mild calf injury. However, he was able to accumulate 21 Cactus League at-bats. At that time, he was just 3-for-17 with no extra-base hits and eight strikeouts.
The results are not necessarily important in spring training for a veteran hitter like Davis. He was trying to accumulate repetitions at the plate, which he was able to do prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If Davis’ calf injury had any lingering effects, then the extra time off should help the A’s designated hitter return to a clean bill of health.
Once the 2020 season resumes, the Athletics fans should see Davis return to his usual powerful form. The extended time off should benefit the 32-year-old and help him tap back into the power he has demonstrated for much of his career.