Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis entered the 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby as the Major League leader in home runs with 37. He came in tied with Reggie Jackson for the second most home runs at the All-Star Break in league history, short of Barry Bonds‘ record of 39. By default, he was the odds-on favorite to win the contest.
He had a slow start in the first round, but came on and finished the round with eight home runs; good enough for a second place tie with the Washington Nationals‘ Bryce Harper and a spot in the second round. He displayed his usual easy power, gently stroking the ball deep to all parts of the field. However, his willingness to drive the ball to the opposite field and his lack of patience cost him a trip to the final. He batted as if he were warming up for a regular season game instead of trying to slug as many home runs as possible.
He only hit four home runs in the second round, falling short of the 17 hit by the Oakland Athletics‘ Yoenis Cespedes, and the 16 hit by Harper. Cespedes outlasted Harper in the final round by a 9-8 total to win the contest.
After failing to live up to immense hype for the first five years of his career, Davis will enter the second half looking to make history. He needs to hit 25 home runs in the Baltimore Orioles’ last 66 games in order to surpass Roger Maris’ total of 61. He would perhaps be the first ‘clean’ player to do so. Amid the ongoing Biogenesis scandal, the accomplishment would salve the black eye of steroids that continues to plague the game.
Questions will arise, and fingers will point, but if Davis can keep up his home run pace, it will be due to him combining genuine talent with a refined approach to the plate. His showing in the Home Run Derby was lackluster, but his spray chart speaks to his advancement into a complete hitter, rather than the swing-and-pray quad-A player that the Texas Rangers gave up on.
Mark Green is a writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Gearofages.