Were the Brewers wrong about Khris Davis?

Rob Tringali

Last year Khris Davis killed it for the Brewers, but so far this season he's scuffled. Can he bounce back or were expectations too high?

I was beating the Khris Davis drum all winter. When the Brewers actually did trade Norichika Aoki and gave the full time job to Davis I was pretty happy. I was also very aware that I could be totally wrong and the Brewers could end up on the wrong side of a rather risky move.

So far this year Davis hasn't been as effective as one would hope. He's hitting 258/290/379. His batting average is more or less where I'd expect it. He only has a 1.4% walk rate which should come up with more playing time and that will raise his OBP. What's really surprising to me is his slugging numbers. I was expecting it to be around 100 points higher. What's going on?

I think there are two factors at play. Last year pitchers were throwing low and away to him. This seemed to play right into Davis' wheelhouse. Take a look at his batting average zone map here. Most of his best averages came on pitches in the zone low and away. It's the same with his slugging.

This is how pitchers are throwing to Davis this year. The heat map is pretty well dispersed compared to last year, but you'll notice that they're focusing more on the inside and high parts of the zone. One of the knocks on Khris Davis has always been his long swing. Because of this he's had trouble catching up to high and inside pitches and it seems pitchers are trying to take advantage of that.

The other thing I noticed is that Khris Davis is swinging at a lot more pitches this year. Last year he had a 49.8% swing rate. This year he's swinging at 56.3% of the pitches he sees. Here is the heat map for his swing rate last year. He showed an excellent eye. Here is the heat map for this year. You can see he's swinging at more pitches outside the zone. Last year his O-Swing% was 31.1%. This year it's jumped to 39.4%.

Pitchers are adjusting their approach to Davis and thus far he's had trouble compensating. He's being more aggressive and he's swinging at more pitches outside of the zone. Last year it took him a little while to get locked in. He opened the season with the Brewers and was sent down for ineffectiveness. When they called him back up he was electric. I'm still hopeful that Davis will be able to adjust. He just needs to be more patient at the plate and stop swinging at so many pitches outside the zone. He's also going to have to find a way to catch up to those pitches high and inside.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Heat maps courtesy of BrooksBaseball

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