ARLINGTON – Chris Davis is seeing things differently these days. He’s seeing time in the lineup. He’s seeing the ball at the plate more than ever and, as a result, he’s seeing the ball leave the park more. He’s seeing criticism in a sport where an upswing in batting totals tends to spark false accusations.
But above the playing time, the league-leading numbers and the talk of performance enhancing drugs, the Baltimore Oriole and 2013 All-Star selection is seeing the future.
Sitting atop the home run category in Major League Baseball with 37 just after the All-Star game, which Davis started for the American League at first base for the first time in his career, it’s been a whirlwind rise to the top for Davis, who said he hasn’t had time to reflect on the first half of the season.
And there’s no time for reflection now.
“It’s been pretty busy, especialy the past week or so,” Davis said this past Friday night after the Orioles kicked off the second half of the season against the Texas Rangers, just days after competing in the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. “As much as I am proud of what I’ve accomplished, we still have a lot of season left to go.”
2013 has been a record year since the beginning for Davis. After setting a new MLB record for 16 RBIs in the first four games of the season and becoming the fourth player in baseball history to start the season with a four-game home run streak, the records haven’t stopped piling up. According to STATS, Davis is the only player in MLB history to have 25-plus doubles, 30-plus home runs and 85-plus RBIs prior to the All-Star game.
With the record and accomplishment list constantly growing for Davis, he is quick to credit being able to play every day as a big reason for his breakout season.
After being drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2006, Davis bounced back between the big leagues and the minors – garnering substantial numbers along the way – before being traded to Baltimore in 2011.
In Texas, Davis was behind the likes of Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland. Baltimore provided a chance to see regular playing time.
“What we’re seeing now is the result of a lot of hard work and getting the opportunity to play every day,” Davis said. “That’s a big part of it, being in a place where I can be the first baseman every day and know that I’m going to be in the lineup.”
The numbers agree too.
According to the Associated Press, in his 266 games with Texas, Davis batted .248 with 42 homers and 124 RBIs. Friday’s contest marked his 266th game with the Orioles, finishing the same span with a .286 average, 72 homers and 191 RBIs.
Having already set career bests in doubles, RBIs, home runs and well on pace to setting personal runs scored and hits records in 2013, Davis has already eclipsed his total number of walks from 2012. He has walked 38 times in 2013 after walking 37 times in all of 2012.
For Davis it’s about putting in the work, paired with six years in the league.
“I think I’ve matured a lot (since coming to Baltimore),” he said. “My plate discipline has got a lot better and I’ve been more patient at the plate.
“I think it just goes back to being able to play every day, to learn about myself and get that experience. As well as getting to know the pitchers in the league.”
While Davis has risen to the baseball elite, his numbers in 2013 have garnered the negative attention as well with the accusations of steroid use.
It’s a baseball epidemic that has engulfed America’s pastime in the past decade and it’s a baseball battle that Davis has met head on.
Taking to Twitter earlier this season, Davis responded to a fans’ simple question of ‘Are you on steroids?’ with a simple ‘No.’
“That’s people looking for a reason,” Davis said. “You can look back at my numbers, whether it’s high school, college, the minor leagues or my time here (in Texas), it was never about whether I had the power or not, it was about be consistently putting the bat on the ball.
“For me, I’ve never taken steroids, I’ve never taken PEDs, I’ve never even thought about it. It’s never been an issue for me and I think it’s a copout for people to assume that. Through the course of my career, people aren’t going to have anything to hold against me.”
Again, the numbers agree.
His biography page on the Orioles website lists Davis as 6-3, 230 pounds. When he graduated from Longview High School in 2004, he was 6-3, 225 pounds, according to his former high school coach.
As his numbers continue to grow and as the season winds down, for Davis, it’s all about meeting the goals and expectations he’s set for himself, not those put on him by others.
“I’ve prided myself this year on living up to my own expectations,” Davis said. “I’m not trying to get caught up in what other people expect and want from me.
“I think as long as I continue to do that, I’ll be all right.”
(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)