Davis has cut — as opposed to bulked– the previous few seasons, and both the eye test and empirical data (Statcast) support rapidly declining foot-speed, suggesting declining athleticism. To borrow from my college coach, “it takes an athlete to hit the inside pitch.” It reasons that CD’s declining athleticism is tied to slower hands, and an inability to catch up to the premium fastball. Note that a premium FB can be 98 mph or 90 mph with great deception. Deception comes from the previous pitch and or the pitch of interest itself. Conclusion: Davis’ athleticism in his youth allowed him to somewhat compensate for the difficulty inherent in hitting the premium fastball; he no longer possesses this level of athleticism, and thus does not connect on as many fastballs. His takes on hittable fastballs are as symptomatic as his whiffs and foul balls on such pitches.
Davis has looked downright lost the past two seasons at the plate. He has inordinately numerous and large stretches of “uncompetitive” at-bats. Think of an uncompetitive at-bat like a pitcher hitting. An uncompetitive at-bat can be decomposed into uncompetitive swings and takes. The preceding paragraph offered some insight into why CD struggles with the good fastball. Davis struggles equally with off-speed. Making solid and consistent contact on an off-speed pitch is predicated on, what I often remark in game threads, the hitter “maintaining the integrity of his swing.” Maintaining the integrity of the swing means not slowing down or adjusting the swing itself in reaction to noticing that the pitch is not a fastball (i.e. off-speed). This is why coaches preach keeping your hands back, diagnosing the pitch, then swinging in one motion. A hitter who does not maintain the integrity of his swing slows and alters his bat path, and does not transfer his complete weight/power into the pitch. The result is typically a weak ground-ball or fly-ball. One thing unique about Davis is that he still hits several home runs a year despite not maintaining the integrity of his swing. This is attributable to his mammoth physical strength, and I believe it gives him improper feedback on his swing. An analogous situation is the amateur hitter dropping bombs with an aluminum bat. (Think about it: how easy is it to hit a line-drive with a metal bat? This is why i highly discourage amateur players from practicing with anything but wood. This is also why I would take more stock in summer wood-bat league stats than college stats.) Going back to Davis, I continuously wonder if he is receiving feedback in regard to the integrity of his swing from coaches. He hasn’t appeared to attempt an appropriate adjustment in two years. It is actually maddening.
The previous paragraph segues into my final, albeit general, observation with Davis’ hitting: Chris Davis has lacked an approach since 2015. The number of “hell cuts” Davis takes when ahead in the count saliently reinforces my claim. A “hell cut” is further terminology from my former college coach, characterizing a weak swing ahead in the count that serves no purpose. Contact made with a hell cut is poor, counterproductive and simply shouldn’t happen when you own an advantage in the count. (An exception to this may be with a man on third and fewer than two out, in which case contact — especially in the formidably less theoretical environment of amateur ball — is a desirable outcome, even if ahead in the count. But the definition of a hell cut is void in this situation.) Davis succumbs to the hell cut more than any hitter in the game, and regardless how helpless and overwhelmed he feels at the plate, can and should be avoided. The other part of Davis’ approach I have issue with is his seeming unwillingness to let the ball travel and use the opposite field, especially given the prodigious shifts other teams employ against him. Hitting is VERY hard, so I understand if he does not make quality opposite-field contact in game. I would like to know if he is trying to keep his hands back and hit the ball up the middle and the other way during drills and BP. He probably is, but sometimes I question it.