Posted June 30, 2013

Two-homer day brings Chris Davis to 30 — and select company

Baltimore Orioles, Chris Davis

Chris Davis continued his incredible power hitting with two tape-measure blasts against the Yankees on Saturday. [AP]

Chris Davis continued his incredible power hitting with two tape-measure blasts against the Yankees on Saturday night. [AP]

Chris Davis continues to crush. The Orioles’ slugger homered twice on Saturday evening in his team’s 11-3 rout of the Yankees, giving him 30 homers for the season. That’s six more than the majors’ second-highest total, that of the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, and it puts him in some pretty decent company.

According to the Elias Bureau, Davis is the fifth-fastest player to reach 30 homers, doing so in 82 team games. He’s also the 34th player to reach 30 homers by the All-Star break, a milepost which in years past put a player within range of challenging Roger Maris’ single-season home run record of 61. Juiced sluggers and juiced baseballs changed how we view such quick accumulations of home runs, but it’s still worth pointing out.

Given that the Orioles still have 14 games to play before the All-Star break, he figures to climb higher on this list, particularly given that his longest streak of the season without a homer is eight games:

Rk Player Year G 1st Half HR 2nd Half HR Total HR
1 Barry Bonds 2001 81 39 34 73
2T Reggie Jackson 1969 91 37 10 47
Mark McGwire 1998 80 37 33 70
4T Ken Griffey 1998 88 35 21 56
Luis Gonzalez 2001 87 35 22 57
6 Frank Howard 1969 100 34 14 48
7T Roger Maris 1961 83 33 28 61
Mark McGwire 1987 80 33 16 49
Matt Williams 1994 86 33 10 43
Ken Griffey 1994 87 33 7 40
Sammy Sosa 1998 83 33 33 66
12T Frank Thomas 1994 86 32 6 38
Sammy Sosa 1999 85 32 31 63
Albert Pujols 2009 90 32 15 47
15T Willie Mays 1954 84 31 10 41
Mike Schmidt 1979 92 31 14 45
Kevin Mitchell 1989 86 31 16 47
Mark McGwire 1997 87 31 27 58
Jose Canseco 1999 82 31 3 34
David Ortiz 2006 86 31 23 54
Jose Bautista 2011 84 31 12 43
22T Harmon Killebrew 1964 76 30 19 49
Willie McCovey 1969 86 30 15 45
Willie Stargell 1971 76 30 18 48
Willie Stargell 1973 86 30 14 44
Dave Kingman 1976 86 30 7 37
Brady Anderson 1996 79 30 20 50
Ken Griffey 1997 84 30 26 56
Greg Vaughn 1998 87 30 20 50
Mark McGwire 2000 70 30 2 32
Barry Bonds 2003 80 30 15 45
Jim Thome 2006 82 30 12 42
Alex Rodriguez 2007 85 30 24 54
Chris Davis 2013 81 30 30

As you can see from the table above, not everybody who reached 30 made a serious charge on the record. Mays, the first player to reach 30 by the All-Star break, did so back when Babe Ruth held the record with 60; he was at 31 by the break, but hit just 10 the rest of the way even as he earned NL MVP honors and helped the Giants bring home a world championship. Maris himself reached 33 by the break and successfully toppled Ruth.

Just about every challenger who came along between 1962 and 1998 fell off considerably in the second half. Reggie Jackson’s drop was perhaps the most dramatic given that he set a first-half record (it’s worth noting that the All-Star Game was played fairly late that year, on July 23), and he had 91 games under his belt (Frank Howard had 100 that year!). When Dave Kingman fell off into the single digits in the second half in 1976, he did so while missing more than five weeks after tearing ligaments in his thumb. Likewise for Jose Canseco (1999) and Mark McGwire (2000), though by that point, the latter had surpassed Maris, albeit with a little pharmaceutical help. Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey and Matt Williams, meanwhile, fell off as their bids for the record ended due to the 1994 players’ strike in early August.

The bottom line is that history shows how incredibly difficult it is to maintain the kind of pace Davis is setting. He’s not going to get anywhere close to Barry Bonds’ 73, but at the very least, he’s putting himself in position to become the first player since Jose Bautista in 2010 to top 50 homers, and making a serious case for AL MVP, even as Cabrera continues to post incredible numbers himself. Revising my chart from a couple weeks ago:

Davis 338 98 30 79 .333 .408 .724 195 4.0
Cabrera 365 117 24 81 .375 .463 .676 203 4.8

One way or another, the two players are 1-2 in slugging percentage, homers, runs (63-59, Cabrera), RBI, OPS and OPS+, the last of which doesn’t factor in Saturday’s performances. Cabrera came into the day leading the league in Wins Above replacement, with Davis third and Baltimore teammate Manny Machado second.


As a Rangers fan I can attest to Davis' ridiculous power. Problem w/ him was that he had horrible plate discipline. I kinda knew that w/ a change of scenery he would blow up like he has though. He couldn't get it together with us so we shipped him out for a very good reliever. One of those rare trades where both teams wound up winning. We got a reliever that helped us have the best pen that year en route to a World Series and the O's got the guy now known as Crush Davis.


The people who say he is juicing obviously never followed Chris Davis over his career. He's the same sized guy he was back in his early Rangers days... he's never really gotten any more muscle. The difference between now and then is his plate discipline. He used to go after every curveball, changeup and slider in the dirt he could. Now he lays off of them and gets into good counts where the pitchers need to throw him fastballs, and he's one of the strongest men in baseball and can smash out any pitch in the zone.

Thats about it.

Steve Moore
Steve Moore

all of a sudden, too many homers, hmmmmm


Yeah, I'm sorry, but red flags are going up all over the place with this guy.


been so long since i read the WILLIE MAYS story , maybe 49-50 yrs - but i do vividly remember a section devoted to manager LEO DUROCHER convincing Mays to stop swinging for the fences iwhen he had 31 at the break &hit for average , spraying the ball all over the playing field & that he did .... NL batting crown @345 along with his MVP &   a 4 game sweep of the INDIANS in the series .... something was working there ... the GIANTS were not having a great year in 1955 & LEO said go ahead & swing big , ending up with 55 HRs i believe - someone google that ... but don't doubt my worship , still to this day of the AMAZING MAYS


Everyone on that list that picked up a bat after 1990 (except for Griffey, Thome, and Thomas - fingers crossed they're clean) is a juicer.  

What does that say about Davis?

Is he a clean HOF-er like Griffey, Thome, and Thomas, or is he a juicer like Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds?


@albionhero You can't tell who's "juicing" or not by looking at their biceps. Alex Sanchez was the first player caught by the new testing regime and I'm pretty certain my 8 year old girls could have taken him out in a fight. 

If only Jeff Bagwell or Sammy Sosa got the kind of benefit of the doubt that we extend to Davis...


@albionhero Yep, there was a very detailed article on Grantland maybe a month ago that went through the changes he made in his hitting approach and practice/workout routine, and showed various video clips comparing at-bats this year vs. previous years. I'm a natural skeptic, but I don't think Davis' production this year is due to juicing (or changes in a long established juicing routing - see, I'm a skeptic -lol-). 


I think steroids in baseball are like boob jobs in Hollywood -- might as well do it since everyone's going to assume it anyway...


Other know cheaters on the list: Ortiz, Canseco, Matt Williams, A-Rod.

And, I believe if there was honest, proper testing and reporting over the past 25 years that Anderson, Vaughn, Bautista, Gonzalez, and Pujols would also be tainted.


@McGibbletsAnderson must have had some pretty magical stuff in '96 -- to totally kick in over a single offseason and be completely gone by the next. Barry Larkin and Kevin Elster must have had the same supplier that year. (I think it was Wade Boggs -- he discovered the secret formula after following a musclebound leprechaun to the end of a rainbow during spring training, 1987.)

Now that I think about it, Brady Anderson remind me of this other guy who hit nearly a quarter of his career HRs in a single summer. He'd had only one 30+ HR season, then BAM -- he whacks 61! 

Oh wait...that was Roger Maris.

He had only one more season of 30+ en route to a lackluster career total of 275...


@Michael10 @McGibblets Exactly. The biggest causes of the offensive explosion of the 90's were completely transparent measurables. the introduction of a wave of hitters parks, the replacement of astroturf with grass across the country (which cratered the value of 80's style singles hitters like Gwynne) leading to an emphasis on slugging. The two ill advised expansions (naked money grabs on the part of the owners to pay off their massive collusion damages from the 80's) which had their biggest effect by diluting the pitching pool at a time when a historic number of great hitters were debuting.  Plus a general downturn in pitcher ability, the kind of ebb and flow the talent base of baseball has always had

Then look at this era.  Look at the number of guys throwing 100 mph nowadays. Look at how far we have come in pitcher workloads and care.  A lot of the great young hurlers of the nineties fell to arm trouble (Prior, Wood, the Mets trio of Bill PulsipherJason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson.) because managers worked them to death. 

Steroids may of may have not affected the power spike of the 90's, but the fact is we'll never really know for certain. The simple minded "juicing equals power" storyline is belied by the results of testing, which showed that the majority of players caught "cheating" were fringe major leaguers and pitchers.  Meanwhile there are plenty of things that we can easily measure that absolutely have effected power in the game, both positively and negatively. 

I treat the term "PED's" the same way a treat the term "WMD's". It's scary propaganda pushed by a party with an agenda, the owners, to use as a political cudgel against their perceived enemies.  Used without context, PED's are as ephemeral a bogeyman as Saddam's nuclear program of the chemical weapons that were " in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat ..." 


@McGibblets @Michael10 It was also the only time he batted in front of Mantle for a full season, but why look at all possible factors -- like advanced video pitcher analysis, shifts in average MLB body types, developments in sports medicine and legitimate weight training, smaller parks, decreased strike zones, uppercut swings, "juiced" baseballs and most importantly, the dilution of both hitting and pitching talent via rapid MLB expansion to help create statistical extremes among elite players in the post-strike era -- when you can just apply a "single bullet" theory?

Is it just coincidence that there are more player on this list from sixties, seventies and nineties--particularly the expansion years of 1969 (3) and 1998 (4) and the shortened 1994 (3, following a 1993 expansion)--than there are for the entire decade of the eighties (2, McGwire and Mitchell)? 

Given baseball shift in focus to slugging (and away from baserunning, fielding and pitching) and the fact that there are twice as many players as fifty years ago, it makes sense that this feat would become more common.

The common argument of steroid shouters is that we simply choose not to see what we don't want to believe. Well, guess what--the game has change in more complex and widereaching ways than PEDs, whether you want to believe THAT or not...


@Michael10 @McGibblets If PEDs were prevalent at the time, then it would be logical to draw that conclusion...  however, his spike in home runs can be attributed to moving from larger stadiums into the tiny Yankee stadium with its short porch.  He did win the MVP in 1960 (his first year in Yankee Stadium) with 39 home runs in 136 games.  1961 was the only season of his career that he stayed healthy and played in almost every single game.


@Michael10 @McGibblets How about Davey Johnson when he left the Orioles and went to the Braves. Four guys hitting 40 home runs in the same year.


@Michael10 @BrandonDuncan1 @McGibblets Is it true or untrue that a number of the modern-era players on that list have either failed tests, admitted use, been listed on reports, or been tied to PED use by investigative reporting?

It's MLB's fault they didn't test during the 1990s and ealry-2000s, so there may not be substantial evidence on some of these guys, but one can always draw logical conclusions. 


@BrandonDuncan1 @McGibblets McGibblets knows what's in everyone medicine cabinet. MLB could save millions on drug enforcement by simply asking him who to blackball...