Let me start off by saying I believe in Khris Davis’ talent and think he’ll be a productive six-hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers as the season wears on. Right now, however, he has the look of a player trying too hard to impress, and his swing is completely out of whack.
Baseball is a funny sport, for as quickly as a guy “finds his swing” he can lose all sense of offensive aptitude overnight. That’s what appears to have happened to Davis between the last game of the road trip and his first at-bat of the current homestand, and it has continued through the St. Louis Cardinals’ series.
Tuesday night was a perfect illustration of Davis’ struggles at Miller Park thus far in 2014. While he drew his first walk of the new season, Davis was consistently guessing at the plate, moving his core away from the ball and flailing helplessly at pitches both inside the zone and out.
It seems as though he’s pressing to crush his first home run of the season to prove he belongs. It might also show everyone that the Brewers were right in trading Norichika Aoki and moving Ryan Braun to right field to make room for Davis’ bat.
The 26-year-old was a relaxed and productive hitter on the road, away from the high expectations of the home crowd. The numbers, while clearly a small sample, indicate a potential mental issue could be occurring at Miller Park where he could be trying too hard.
In 18 plate appearances at home, Davis is 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts. Meanwhile, on the six-game road trip Davis had a hit in every contest and combined to go 12-for-28 (.429) with five doubles, only seven strikeouts and a 1.036 OPS.
Furthering the curiosity is that Davis killed the ball at Miller Park last season with a .306 average, .405 OBP, .597 slugging and 1.002 OPS in his home park. Maybe he was looser last season knowing he was just filling in at the time.
The biggest problem he’s had in Milwaukee in 2014 has been swing mechanics. Davis takes a big cut to begin with, but he has also been flying open at the dish. As the pitch approaches, Davis is prematurely turning his front shoulder out toward third, making a decent pitch on the outer half impossible to touch and balls up in the zone difficult to square up and hit hard.
This trouble making contact has been obvious, as he has swung and missed at 20 percent of the pitches he has seen in 2014. Davis was at 13 percent last year, which is also above the typical average of eight or nine percent, but nowhere near his current rate.
The Brewers’ offense needs Davis to be a power source following the first five guys in the lineup, and he showed flashes of that on the first road swing. It’s easier said than done, but Davis just needs to relax, see the ball and hit the ball instead of trying to destroy it into a thousand tiny pieces to prove his worth.
If he doesn’t start to turn it around on Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee, at least there’s another road trip looming where he can find his groove again. I’m sure some don’t want to hear it, but the Brewers need to be patient with Davis and work with him to make the necessary adjustments. If they do, everyone should see big dividends when the weather heats up.