First base has been a problem for the Orioles for a long time. When the Orioles made the commitment to use Chris Davis at first for the 2012 season, most people were not very enthusiastic about it. Davis had shown an up-and-down career in his 1082 plate appearances in the bigs. Before the season, I predicted Davis to have a batting line of .250/.306/.450. I thought that was being relatively fair to Davis and I was primarily basing this off what his former statistics indicated. That being said, 2012 has been fairly nice to Davis so far. Can he keep up his above-average production throughout an entire season?
With a batting line of .305/.339/.513, it's hard to not be impressed with Davis so far. Even more impressive is his .358 wOBA. However, there are a few things that tell me that a regression is much due.
Davis has a career BB% of 6.2%. In 2012, that BB% is a mere 4.2%. To show how little he is taking the free pass, put this into perspective. Davis has one more HR (8) on the year than BB (7). I'm probably throwing an assumption out here, but that does not sound like something that bodes well for a player. His BB% could increase to the norm, but even then it's not exactly a significant jump. Another interesting note on Davis is his .375 BABIP this season. With a career BABIP of .341, it's obviously going to regress this season, but it is amazing that he has a .358 wOBA still with so little free passes on the year. The HR's certainly inflate it a little. Even more mind-boggling is that Davis swings or takes a strike on the first pitch of at-bats roughly 60% of the time. That is a little high for my liking, but Davis has somehow made it work this season. It does seem that good pitchers' have abused Davis on this so far. A lefties' low sweeping breaking ball on the outside corner has been Kryptonite for him this year (It generally is for most lefties). The high fastball has also seemed to kill Davis in the recent weeks.
There has not been much change in his O-Swing%,Z-Swing, Swing%, O-Contact%, or Contact%.
His Z-Contact% is well above his career average. From Fangraphs, Z-Contact% is defined as "The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat". This is a nice indicator for Davis in 2012. In the past he has made decent contact on pitches in the zone, but a 10% jump is rather large. It has been apparent for the most part. He seems to not be striking out as much within the zone, even though his 26.9 K% still indicates he is striking out a lot. However I would venture to guess that majority of those K's have been outside the zone. In my opinion, this has much to do with his success. More contact will obviously lead to a higher BABIP, and higher wOBA.
In the end, I do expect Davis to regress a little. That does not mean he cannot stay productive at the corner. He may never be a top option there, but he provides power and is serving as a worthy option in a time where a first basemen is not easy to come by. Chris Davis is still going to be Chris Davis, but I think Orioles fans should be a little impressed with his season so far. His pitching only makes him more impressive!