BALTIMORE — If it weren’t already becoming apparent after Chris Davis sat out four of the previous six games, Orioles manager Buck Showalter delivered the news prior to Friday’s game with Miami.
The veteran first baseman has been benched.
Showalter didn’t use the “b” word, of course, as he explained Davis is being given an extended stretch of time to work on adjustments to try to turn around a historically-disastrous season in which he’s batting .150 with a .454 on-base plus slugging percentage. Both marks rank last in the majors among qualified hitters by a wide margin as the 32-year-old has hit only four home runs and has been worth an appalling minus-2.2 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Davis hasn’t hit a homer since May 9, posting a .114 average with a .305 OPS, two extra-base hits, five walks, and 43 strikeouts over his last 95 plate appearances.
“Chris is continuing with some things that he’s working on,” Showalter said. “When they come to me and say they think he’s ready to get back in the lineup, we’ll put him back in there. But it’s nothing imminent.”
Asked exactly whom “they” was comprised of, Showalter would not specify. The manager does not expect Davis’ absence to be a long-term situation, but he added there is “no closed end to it.”
There have been no signs of improvement this season as Davis’ numbers have gotten worse each month since April when he batted an anemic .167 with a .513 OPS. It’s gotten so bad that the last-place Orioles promoted infielder and longtime minor leaguer Corban Joseph, the younger brother of Caleb Joseph, to start at first base against the Marlins on Friday.
Davis is only in the third season of a seven-year, $161 million contract and has now produced a slash line of .179/.266/.314 over his last 503 plate appearances dating back to the 2017 All-Star break, making it inappropriate to simply refer to this unprecedented decline as a slump. Davis had previously received a game or two off to use as a reset once or twice, but this current stretch represents the most meaningful public action taken to address what constitutes an organizational crisis.
“I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later. I’d love to get back the Chris Davis that we all know he’s capable of [being],” Showalter said. “It hasn’t been there this year. With kind of a new approach and some new things you’re trying, this is not something that you’re going to do one day in a workout and then it’s all going to pop in one night. If that was the case, it would have happened a long time ago.
“This is something you’ve got to give a little time to and know that when you get into a game and you don’t hit a line drive over the center fielder’s head the first swing you take, you don’t throw everything out. If you’re looking for an instant return on stuff, this game doesn’t allow that.”
What those adjustments or alterations might look like remain to be seen as he hasn’t yet made any dramatic changes to his swing, stance, or positioning in the batter’s box for an extended period of time.
“We need a good Chris Davis. We do,” Showalter said. “He knows that, and that’s what’s frustrating for him. It’s like the chicken and the egg, what comes first confidence-wise?
“I’d love to see Chris get a good week under his belt and watch what happens.”