Davis' frustrating 2019 season an outlier

October 10th, 2019

There are certain events in baseball that are impossible to explain no matter how hard you try to wrap your head around them.

The 2019 season of Khris Davis certainly qualifies.

From 2016-18, Davis reigned as Major League Baseball’s home run king. Following a 2018 campaign that saw him lead the Majors with 48 home runs, Davis was finally rewarded on April 18 with a two-year contract extension that would ensure he would remain in Oakland through the 2021 season. The new contract made all the sense in the world at the time. Davis was unsurprisingly leading all of baseball yet again with 10 home runs through the first 20 games of the season, surely on pace to repeat a 40-homer performance for a fourth consecutive year. But things soon went awry.

In a season where the A’s set a franchise record with 257 home runs on the way to a second consecutive postseason appearance, Davis was outhomered by five of his own teammates. He endured a couple of long home run droughts, including the longest of his career with 28 straight homerless games from June 19-July 28. By the time September came around, Davis was moved to the bottom-third of the order, finishing the year with just 23 home runs.

“I know it was frustrating for Khris. I think he probably put a lot of pressure on himself,” A’s Executive Vice President Billy Beane said. “Khris takes a lot of pride in his role on the team of being that guy who has been the 40-homer middle-of-the-lineup guy. I think he was trying to find the answer as much as anybody and it certainly wasn’t through lack of effort on his part or the coaching staff.

“But we expect him to come back next year and return to his annual 40 homers and .247 average. It wasn’t a typical Khris year. He had some injuries at the beginning of the year. He hasn’t used that as an excuse, to his credit, but they were there. Some of those things could have messed with his mechanics, but he’s got the offseason to forget about it and come back like we know he can.”

What went right?

There wasn’t much going right for Davis’ standards, but he did find a way to drive in 73 runs with the decrease in homers, which was fourth-most on the A’s.

What went wrong?

Davis dealt with a couple of nagging injuries throughout the season. First, there was a left hip injury that turned out to be more of an oblique issue after colliding with a left-field side wall at PNC Park on May 5. There was also a hand contusion that was slow to fully heal in late June. The end result: A career-low batting line of .220/.293/.387 for 2019.

“The injuries kind of sidetracked him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “For a guy that’s used to being ‘the guy’ and is consistent, it’s hard. You can get down on yourself and lose confidence, and when it continues, it starts to snowball. I think that was the case with him. But if you look at the last four years, he’s had one down year and three good ones. He’s still in his prime, and I expect him to come back and produce like he always has. I know he expects the same thing.

“Sometimes you need a little distance from a difficult year. When you look at the back of a baseball card, your worst year is going to be on there. He’s been so consistent for us that it stands out, but I think he and we expect him to come back and do what he’s done in the past.”

Best moment?

Even in a down year, there were still some vintage performances from Davis. His most impressive feat came April 10-11 during a series in Baltimore where he homered twice in back-to-back games, making it a total of four home runs he hit in the span of 24 hours. Davis became the first A's player to hit multiple homers in consecutive games since Josh Reddick on Aug. 9-10, 2013. It was the 12th time an A's player has done it since the team moved to Oakland.

2020 Outlook

Entering next season at age 32, the A’s expect Davis to return to his usual 40-homer season. With plenty of sluggers throughout the lineup, the A’s don’t necessarily need Davis to morph back into the most prolific slugger in baseball in order to be successful, but a repeat of his 2019 season could put him in jeopardy of losing playing time. With opposing pitchers having made an adjustment by throwing him a lot more sliders this past season, Davis will need to find a way to combat that approach.