Chris Davis has been terrible at the plate this season, I think we all understand that. He is going to have to produce far beyond his current level of production for him to have any kind of value for this team. The question is whether or not he can reach that level of production; something even remotely similar to his lines at AAA. My initial question to you is simple: do you like what Nelson Cruz is doing for this team right now? You probably do. I am going to use Nelson Cruz as the paradigm of hope for Chris Davis' future in Major League Baseball.
I think that the complaining about Chris Davis' current incompetence at the plate by fans is probably at a greater level than for any Rangers player in my lifetime. I think that the level of disdain towards Davis is partially due to the fact that the Rangers are winning, so more people are paying attention. Also, I think some of it can be attributed to myths about the necessity of offensive production from certain positions, and to the fact that he is a big, intimidating looking person at the plate, so people notice when somebody like that fails repeatedly.
However, I am tired of so much complaining for different reasons than the ones stated above. I am tired of it because I started thinking of the last time there was a lot of unhappiness with one of our young players who was thought to be a potential slugger at the major league level. Nelson Cruz came to mind. Remember the seasons when Cruz would be mashing at AAA, we would call him up during a series in Kansas City, he would hit a couple home runs in KC to get us all excited, and then he would proceed to fail? I do not think we would be in such a good spot today if we had given up on Nelson Cruz. I think that there is a real possibility that Chris Davis could follow the Nelson Cruz career path. Let's look at some stats.
- Nellie in 2006: AAA: .302/.378/.528 in 371 ABs. MLB: .223/.261/.385 in 130 ABs.
- Nellie in 2007: AAA: .352/.428/.698 in 162 ABs. MLB: .235/.287/.384 in 307 ABs.
- Davis in 2009: AAA: .327/.418/.521 in 165 ABs. MLB: .238/.284/.442 in 391 ABs.
- Davis in 2010: AAA: .354/.403/.555 in 263 ABs. MLB: .169/.244/.234 in 77 ABs.
Those stats do not include the decent level of success Davis had in the Majors in 2008, just in case you want to attribute that season to pitchers not having a book on the Longview, TX native.
The statheads among us may point out that Davis has had a bit more strikeouts at every level, which could be an indicator of an inability to adjust to Major League pitching in the future. While that may be an argument with some merit, I would counter it by pointing out something which is likely unrelated to K's, but its importance balances out the strikeout argument in my mind. I would point out that Nelson Cruz was age 25 in 2006, and 26 in '07. Chris Davis was 23 last season, and is 24 this year. Davis has 2 more years than Nelson did to figure it out, that's kind of a big deal.
Some may say that while Chris Davis may indeed improve, like Nelson did, in the long-term, that it is not worth finding out in the short-term, during a contending year like this. I would say that our lineup, as currently configured, is already far and away better than any line up in the American League, save the Yankees and Red Sox, who we are just as good as.
I am of the opinion that most supposed "AAAA" players gained that label unfairly by getting called up after having abnormal success in AAA. I don't think that those players actually get that much better during a season, but they just happen to have a large portion of their total season success during a certain part of the year at AAA, causing them to get called up. When they get called up, they suddenly start moving towards their expected season totals because their stats have to even out at some point. This makes their Major League totals look bad, and they are then usually called "AAAA" players. Let me be clear that I know that this is not always true, for I know all about Jason Botts.
Chris Davis could be Jason Botts, but he could also be Nelson Cruz. I think it is worth it for the Rangers to see if he is Nelson Cruz, because he already has more in common with Nelson Cruz, he can play good DEFENSE. And on that note, I will end my DEFENSE of Chris Davis.