Consistency in baseball is about showing up and performing game after game, season after season. Most consistent batter in baseball? Khris Davis. Over the last three seasons, Davis has hit .247, consistently.
In 2015, his third and final season playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, Davis played 121 games, with 27 home runs, 66 RBI, walked 44 times, struck out 122 times, with a .323 OBP, .505 SLG, and .828 OPS. In 2016, his first season playing for the Oakland Athletics, Davis played 150 games, with 42 home runs, 102 RBI, walked 42 times, struck out 166 times, with a .307 OBP, .524 SLG, and .831 OPS. In 2017, Davis played 153 games, with 43 home runs, 110 RBI, walked 73 times, struck out 195 times, with a .336 OBP, .528 SLG, and .864 OPS. Every season Davis’ batting average was .247.
2018 is vastly different for Khris Davis. This season Davis has played 147 games, with 46 home runs, 120 RBI, walked 56 times, struck out 169 times, with a .326 OBP, .547 SLG, and .873 OPS. He is not hitting .247, no he has posted a blistering .249 batting average. If Khris Davis cools off just slightly at the plate he could hit .247 for a fourth straight season. Consistency.
Khris Davis consistently launches the baseball into the seats in Oakland. (Getty Images)
Davis batting fourth in the Athletics lineup has him cleaning up after Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, and Jed Lowrie cause havoc ahead of him. Davis is seeing more pitches to hit as teams must choose to pitch to him or Matt Olson. Constantly turning over the line up stretches opposing pitching staffs and provides breathing room for Oakland’s staff. A good offense and solid pitching staff have the Athletics in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. A Wild Card match up against the Yankees awaits.
Oakland benefits from Davis on the field and in the stands. The Athletics and Davis have one last round of arbitration before free agency in 2020. Davis will reach free agency heading into his 32 year old season. If he continues producing big power numbers, even in Oakland’s pitcher friendly park, he will be a hot commodity at next season’s trade deadline. Oakland fans love Davis and he loves playing in Oakland. Large contracts are almost unheard of in Oakland, Davis could find himself in a situation similar to Andre Ethier and the Dodgers. The Dodger front office overpaid a fan favorite to show the team was serious about winning. The Athletics will soon be the only team left in Oakland. The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas and the Warriors are moving to San Francisco. Now is a good time for the Athletics to spend some money and draw Oakland in as the team is winning, consistently.
Teams with large payrolls are not guaranteed to win championships. In sports the more talented the player, the more expensive their services become once they reach free agency, thus teams with large payrolls are filled with players who are, or at one time were, extremely talented at their chosen profession. The road to a championship requires a commitment to excellence, and for the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers that journey was just beginning.
The Best Team Money Can Buy by Molly Knight explores the transition of the Dodgers from the disastrous ownership tenure of Frank McCourt to the new ownership of Mark Walter. Knight explores the team on the field, in the front office, and the world around them. Major League Baseball understood the value of ensuring the transition from McCourt to Walter went smoothly and acted in the best interest of baseball.
*Spoilers beyond this point.*
Knight does an excellent job of examining the players on and off the field. The Dodgers to securing their ace, Clayton Kershaw, for the long term was critical to the health of the team. If Kershaw was able to walk away from the Dodgers, like Zack Greinke eventually did, the immediate future for the team would have been about building towards division not World Series titles. Los Angeles’ front office knew their fans would turn on the team if Kershaw was allowed to walk. Resigning Kershaw was as much a baseball move as it was a public relations move. Contrasting the focus and dominance of Kershaw was the explosion of Yasiel Puig. The willingness to sign a relatively unknown talent was a risk, however the excitement Puig brought with him to the Dodgers out weighed the risk in the eyes of the fans. Puig’s experience with his teammates and the insight Knight provides shows the difficulty many Latin American players have in adjusting to life in the United States, especially Cuban players. Puig’s near instant success meant he found some of the pitfalls that caused other superstars stumble. While electrifying on the field, Puig’s antics off the field and in the clubhouse rubbed many of his teammates the wrong way. This left manager Don Mattingly with the delicate job of keeping Puig happy while not alienating the rest of the team. This challenge was made even more difficult as the Dodgers showed little faith in Mattingly, who never felt secure in his job while in Los Angeles. This constant balancing act in the clubhouse made performing on the field more difficult than normal. The internal drama was overshadowed as the ownership regime of Frank McCourt came crashing down all around Dodger Stadium.
The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse (Simon & Schuster)
Prior to owning the Dodgers, Frank McCourt owned a parking lot in south Boston. He attempted to buy the Red Sox and move them to a new stadium that he would construct on his parking lot. When this plan failed he turned his attention to the Dodgers. McCourt had bigger dreams than bank accounts, but was able to purchase the Dodgers with loans he secured by putting the parking lot up as collateral. Eventually the loans went unpaid and the parking lot was seized. Ultimately the Dodgers were sold to McCourt for a parking lot in south Boston.
McCourt ran the Dodgers into the ground. He had little interest in the team beyond how they could make him richer. As his personal life went up in flames he attempted to hold onto the Dodgers through a television deal that would pay him enough to remain owner after his divorce was finalized. Major League Baseball was forced to step in to prevent the deal. His divorce turning nasty and dragging on, McCourt was ordered to sell the team. The Dodger fan base was skeptical of new owner Mark Walter. However, Walter was only interested in winning. Signing fan favorite Andre Ethier to an over priced contract was more of a public relations deal than a smart baseball deal. Walter understood he had to win back the fans after many had rightly walked away under McCourt. Winning was the most important thing, money would solve some problems but not everything.
The early building blocks of the perennial contender the Dodgers have become were laid in 2013. Molly Knight examines the circumstances surround the team during this critical time, yet she also helps the reader understand why the rebirth of the Dodgers is so important to baseball. She does an excellent job of exposing the personalities on the team that made the team successful and struggle. Sports teams are often not seen as being made up of people, but Knight makes you see the quirks and craziness that each player brings to the Dodger clubhouse. Molly Knight’s work in The Best Team Money Can Buy is as critical to the understanding of baseball’s current state as Michael Lewis’ Moneyball. Money does not guarantee championships, as baseball cannot be bought and sold, but it does not hurt.
It is time to set some resolutions for 2016 and some teams have decided to start early on their resolutions with some big off-season moves. We thought it might be nice to give a quick recap of what we think are the top 2 moves in each division so far and what the other teams need to do in order to position themselves best for long-term success. We’re starting from the west and giving the nod to the NL as the elder statesman of MLB.
The two big moves in the NL West so far were made by the Giants and the Diamondbacks with the signings of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Zack Greinke respectively. Both of these teams have the hitting and fielding necessary to win games and all that they need is a rotation that could keep games from having NFL box scores.
Jeff Samardzija does not back down from anyone or anything. He will throw punches and eat innings for the good of the team. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)
The bigger move here is the Giants getting Cueto and Samardzija because, with Madison Bumgardner as their ace, there won’t be many easy games in a 7-game series. Looks like the Giants want to keep the even year cycle going into the 2016 season.
The Diamondbacks, with a lineup mostly under 30, can anchor a rotation with Greinke for a season or two as they piece together a powerhouse rotation. Maybe it’s a bit biased but Shelby Miller is better than you might think and with the run support he can get from the D-Backs’ lineup, should make him a solid #2.
Shelby Miller was excellent in baseball history in 2015. Only a Braves team being torn down around him was able to overcome his excellence on the mound. (www.statliners.com)
Now we’re not saying that there haven’t been other moves worth noting, but the two we’ve discussed change the dynamics of the division. At the beginning of the 2015 season, the NL West looked like a matchup between the Dodgers and the Giants. The rest of the division was going to be an afterthought. Now the Giants look like they’ve taken the catbird seat with the D-Backs as the biggest threat to unseat them. That said…
Los Angeles Dodgers
BL – I think the Dodgers need to balance themselves out and get themselves a good core group. It seems like they’ve got good hitters who don’t have the legs to field and the younger guys can’t make consistent contact. The best place to start would be revamping their infield fast…like should have been done yesterday.
Is Yasiel Puig destined to become a Dodgers legend or will he be moved to break up the outfield log jam? (www.gardygoesyardy.com)
DJ – The Dodgers have to focus on getting value instead of overpaying for everyone. Their payroll is shrinking some so they cannot continue to spend like the George Steinbrenner Yankees of old. The Dodgers need to decide who is the future of their outfield. Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford make for a crowded outfield. Each of these players plays best when they are in the lineup everyday. The Dodgers Front Office must decide if they will take the financial hit of paying Crawford or Ethier to go away, or risk trading away a decade or more of All Star play by moving Pederson or Puig.
BL – The Rockies lost nearly a quarter of their games in 2015 by substantial margins (4+ runs and 38 games to be precise). Colorado could use a lot more consistent pitching to keep games close. Keeping some scoring margins manageable means having a consistent defense to keep things under control but that might mean letting go of some hitting to get that. The focus should stay on improving the rotation and bullpen in order to make it easier on the defense. Losing John Axford might hurt them in the long run but a closer should only be the icing on the cake.
Nolan Arenado’s perennial Gold Glove defense is overshadowed by hit skill with the bat. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
DJ – The Rockies need power from their first baseman. Combined the Rockies first basemen hit 17 HR with 78 RBI. Ben Paulsen played 88 games at first and hit 8 HR with 38 RBI. Colorado needs more power to drive in runs. Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez both had monster years. If the Rockies can land a first baseman that can add a bit more power to the line up the Rockies could overcome many of their other struggles.
San Diego Padres
BL – The Padres need some sports psychiatry and not just for the players but the managers and front office as well. There’s plenty of talent on this team but it’s simply not working together well. Craig Kimbrel was brought in too early when there were other issues for the team to sort out. There’s a lot of money locked up in the outfield and pitching staff. Best thing for them to do is sort out a plan and stick with it.
Kevin Quackenbush and the rest of the Padres bullpen were severly overused in 2015. San Diego starters needs to do better in 2016. (www.friarsonbase.com)
DJ- The Padres were a mess and it showed in the pitching. The starting rotation only had one starting pitcher average at least 6 innings pitched per start, James Shields. This left the San Diego bullpen with too many innings to chew up. San Diego overworked their relievers. Five relief pitchers appeared in at least 53 games; Brandon Maurer (53 games), Shawn Kelley (53 games), Kevin Quackenbush (57 games), Craig Kimbrel (61 games), and Joaquin Benoit (67 games). No bullpen can survive this workload over the course of a season. If the Padres want to be better in 2016, it all starts with putting together a starting rotation that can go deeper in games.
BL and DJ