Record-Low .161 Average for $21M Gives Chris Davis Worst Season in MLB History

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2018

Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis walks off the field after grounding out in the second inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Monday, July 23, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

To say the Baltimore Orioles are having a dismal season is an understatement.

To say Orioles slugger Chris Davis is having a dismal season is a criminal understatement. 

Entering play Tuesday, the Orioles are 34-78, buried in last place in the American League East. They traded superstar Manny Machado and ace reliever Zach Britton and officially initiated a painful, likely protracted rebuild.

At least the Machado and Britton deals netted some prospects who offer a glimmer of hope for the future. Davis, on the other hand, is an albatross the O's will be forced to bear for years to come.

Here's one painful number: .161. That's Davis' batting average entering Tuesday.

As Jared Diamond noted in the Wall Street Journal, the low-water mark for batting title-qualifying hitters since 1900 is .179 and that has been "achieved" only twice—by Rob Deer of the Detroit Tigers in 1991 and Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves in 2013. Take a bow, gentlemen.

Davis is on pace to knock Deer and Uggla out of the ignoble record books. They should send him a gift basket or something. 

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 26: Chris Davis #19 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on after hitting a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 26, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty I
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
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Here's another painful number: $21.1 million. That's how much the Orioles are paying Davis this season, per Spotrac. It's also how much they'll pay him every season through 2022. Davis turned 32 in March. That's not typically an age when guys turn the ship around.

Here's a painful question: Is Davis having the worst season in MLB history? If the answer isn't "yes," it's "probably."

In addition to his abysmal batting average, he owns a .247 on-base percentage, last among qualified hitters. Even his power has evaporated. His .304 slugging percentage leads only the Cincinnati Reds' Billy Hamilton and Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar among qualifiers. And he's struck out in 34.7 percent of his plate appearances, better than only the Texas Rangers' Joey Gallo.

Not surprisingly, he's been worth minus-2.1 WAR by FanGraphs' calculation, which means he's cost the Orioles more than two wins compared to a random minor leaguer earning the league minimum. 

In June, FanGraphs' Dan Szymborski starkly highlighted Davis' WAR futility:

For a player earning in excess of $20 million, that's depressingly, brain-meltingly astounding. 

The Orioles benched Davis in June in an ostensible effort to get his swing right. No such luck.

We could keep going, stacking horrible stat upon horrible stat to build a pyramid of awful stats, but you get the picture. There's bad, there's ugly and then there's Chris Davis in 2018.

Once upon a time, Davis was a valuable player. His game was always relateively one-dimensional, but he led baseball with 53 home runs, 138 RBI and 370 total bases in 2013 and finished third in AL MVP voting. In 2015, he again paced MLB with 47 homers, posted a .923 OPS and picked up stray MVP votes.

After that 2015 campaign, the Orioles handed Davis a franchise-record seven-year, $161 million contract. They hoped the dingers would keep flowing and their contention window would remain open.

Neither of those things happened, and now the Orioles are literally paying the price. They're buried in the basement. They're giving Davis superstar dollars to swing like a scrub.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The red flags were evident. Davis hit a scant .215 last season with a .309 OBP. Yes, he tacked on 26 home runs, but the signs of decline echoed loudly. 

Now, Davis is hearing boos from the Camden Yard faithful. Who can blame them?

"I understand their frustration," Davis told reporters in early July. "I know exactly what I'm capable of and what I've done in the past. I know that the standard is high and I haven't been playing that well."

Talk about a criminal understatement.

Talk about a dismal season.

Talk about a disaster.


All statistics and contract information current entering play Tuesday and courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference