Chris Davis' pursuit of the single-season strikeout record came to a screeching halt this morning when the Rangers demoted the struggling first baseman to Triple-A, making room on the roster for the return of Josh Hamilton.
Davis has whiffed in 114 of his 277 plate appearances, which works out to an amazing 41.2 percent. To put that into some context, consider that Mark Reynolds struck out in 33.3 percent of his plate appearances while setting the all-time strikeout record last season with 204. Not only was Davis whiffing nearly 25 percent more often than Reynolds did, he was on a 230-strikeout pace that would have shattered the record.
Of course, when you're striking out 40 percent of the time and hitting just .202/.256/.415 the odds of remaining in lineup all year are pretty slim. Texas showed plenty of patience with Davis, starting him in 70 of the first 80 games, but the Rangers can't afford such weak production at a high-offense position like first base with the Angels making their lead in the AL West disappear.
Hank Blalock is expected to see most of the action at first base with Davis out of the picture, opening up designated hitter for the Rangers' various non-Hamilton outfielders like Andruw Jones, Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, and Nelson Cruz. To his credit Davis' comments afterward indicate that he understands the move from the team's point of view:
It was only a matter of time. Obviously, I wasn't making adjustments. You can't expect them to keep sticking me out there every day, not really being any kind of a threat at the plate. I'm not down about it. You don't ever want to be sent down, but at the same time it's kind of a relief to know I can just go get my head straight and kind of take out all the outside influences away and just go get back to baseball. Give myself a chance to get back to where I need to be.
Davis will definitely be back in the majors and perhaps even in the second half, because he's a much better hitter than he's shown this season. On the other hand, he's also a worse hitter than he showed while batting .285 with 17 homers in 80 games as a rookie last season. In fact, here's the conclusion of Davis' write-up in Rotoworld's annual baseball magazine:
Davis isn't far away from being a 35- or 40-homer guy in the majors. However, he strikes out a ton and doesn't balance it out with walks. Odds are that he'll be a fine cleanup hitter for the long term, but he may take a step back first. An average as low as .240 or .250 can't be ruled out.
Turns out his batting average dipped to .202, but the basic point remains. He strikes out a ton, doesn't walk much, and has huge power. Playing over his head as a rookie and flailing away as a sophomore has shaped the perception of Davis in an odd fashion, but at the end of the day he's hit .246/.296/.486 with 32 homers and a 202/37 K/BB ratio through 157 games in the majors, has a clear skill set, and is still just 23 years old.