2016 Topps Now Chris Davis (card number 13) . Print Run of 266
It's funny how quick time goes. The card you see above was "released" on April 11th, 2016. That's only three seasons ago. For Chris Davis it must seem like a lifetime. When this card was made available by Topps, Davis was coming off of a 2015 in which he hit 47 home runs, posted a 5.3 WAR and slashed .262/.361/.923. Even with 206 strikeouts that was pretty impressive.
It was also the first year of his brand new $161 million 7-year contract, the most expensive deal in Orioles history. The Orioles got off to a hot start that season. As the card mentions, the Orioles were 6-0 thanks to his game-winning home run. They would add one more win to run their franchise-record streak to 7 games.
The Orioles would go on to win 82 more games that year and finish second in the AL East which was good enough to qualify for the Wild Card play-in game. What happened there is best saved for another day.
As for Davis, he had an o.k. season. His slash line dropped to .221/.332/.792 and he only hit 38 home runs. He still posted a 3.8 WAR and had 38 home runs. Not a great season (especially for $23 million) but it wasn't horrible. Unfortunately it would be the best season he would post for the next three seasons.
Almost three years to the date (April 13th, 2019) Topps produced another Topps Now card of Chris Davis. This card celebrated the fact that Davis had managed to pick up his first hit in 54 at-bats, a streak that started way back in September of 2018.
Not quite as memorable of an accomplishment.
In today's victory, Davis continued his slow crawl back from the depth of Hell with his first home run since August 24th, 2018.
So, is Chris Davis back? Not in the sense of the 2013-15 Chris Davis where he was one of the most feared power hitters in the league. Is he back in the sense of providing at least replacement level numbers? Possibly.Chris Davis (3) off RHP Heath Hembree (2) - 108.0 mph, 28 degrees (408 ft Home Run)— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) April 15, 2019
88.5 mph Slider#Orioles @ #RedSox (T8) pic.twitter.com/4u1gFN5uYf
He finished off the series against the Red Sox by going 4 for 12 (.333), driving in six runs, with two doubles and a home run. He did strike out four times (including twice on Monday), but most of the balls he put in play were pretty well struck. There are signs that perhaps he is poised to have a better season than last year despite his slow start. His current BABIP is .125, yet his average exit velocity of balls put in play is 90.4 MPH and he has a hard hit percentage of 50%. That means he's making solid contact but it hasn't been translating to hits until this weekend.
At some point all of these hard hit balls have to start falling in. He's also making more contact than in the past. While we're still well within the small sample size realm, his 34.3% strike out rate is the lowest since 2016. So if he's striking out less and hitting the ball harder, that should translate to more hits. Hopefully.
It's unlikely that he ever approaches the highs of 2013 and 2015, but if he can get back to the 2016-type of production that would be enough to stay in the line-up and help the 2019 Orioles win more than their expected shares of games.