|ESPN.com: Buster Olney||[Print without images]|
|Chris Davis has swung at fewer out of zone pitches and hit more fly balls this season.|
BALTIMORE -- Chris Davis was anxious at the plate against CC Sabathia on Friday, chasing pitches out of the strike zone, perhaps in the way that he did in those frustrating days when he was with the Texas Rangers. During that game, Robinson Cano reached first base and he turned to Davis.
"Man, slow down," he said. "You've got 28 homers and it's not even the All-Star break." "Yeah, I know," Davis said, acknowledging that he had been hyper-aggressive. "Our pitchers know it, too," said Cano.
So Davis slowed down on Saturday and clubbed two more homers, becoming only the eighth player in major league history to reach 30 by the end of June -- and he's still got one day to go, with the Orioles set to face the Yankees on "Sunday Night Baseball," looking for a sweep.
Davis sat down in the Orioles' dugout Saturday and talked about all the elements that have gone into his remarkable start: The adjustments on his swing, the change in his bat, the lowest moments of the past.
Cano is again the captain for the American League in the Home Run Derby, and I asked him during the Yankees' batting practice if he had finished picking the guys to make up his team. He said that he's close. Based on what he's seeing in Davis, it's hard to imagine that he won't pick the Orioles first baseman.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Davis is the eighth player in MLB history -- and only the third in American League history -- to have 30 homers before the end of June.
30-plus HRs before end of June
Chris Davis -- 2013
Albert Pujols -- 2009
Barry Bonds -- 2001
Luis Gonzalez -- 2001
Sammy Sosa -- 1998, 1999
Mark McGwire -- 1998
Ken Griffey Jr. -- 1994, 1998
Babe Ruth -- 1928, 1930
Davis is the only one of those eight players to also have at least 25 doubles before the end of June. Saturday was his 81st game of the season. He's now on pace for 117 runs, 49 doubles, 59 homers and 156 RBIs. Nobody in MLB history has ever finished a season with those numbers.
From ESPN Stats and Information: How has Davis developed into one of the elite hitters in baseball this season? Improvement in three key areas:
More contact: During his first two seasons in the majors, Davis struck out 32.3 percent of the time he came to bat. No player, age 23 or younger, in MLB history struck out more often over the course of his first two seasons. This season: 26.3 percent, an enormous improvement.
More fly balls: Last season, Davis hit 33 home runs while hitting fly balls only 39 percent of the time, just slightly above the league average of 36 percent. This season? He's hitting fly balls 48 percent of the time (sixth in MLB).
Better plate discipline: Over the previous four seasons, Davis swung at 36 percent of pitches out of the zone. This season: 29 percent. This has allowed him to get into better counts -- counts he can do damage in. From 2009 to '12, Davis saw a 2-0 or 3-1 count in 14 percent of his plate appearances. This season, he's seeing those counts in 23 percent of his plate appearances and hitting .490/.679/1.163 with a MLB-leading 10 homers in those situations.
Both of Davis' home runs Saturday came against curveballs. He leads the majors with 10 homers versus breaking balls this season.
Most HR versus breaking balls
Chris Davis -- 10
Miguel Cabrera -- 9
Robinson Cano -- 8
Ian Desmond -- 8
In the Orioles' clubhouse before the game, it was a loud atmosphere, as players and coaches took turns battling it out in pool and pingpong. The Yankees' clubhouse was much more reserved. The respective environments probably mean nothing, but on the other hand, the Yankees' players privately acknowledge how much they're struggling: They rank 29th in the majors in runs scored this month, and they are drifting in the standings. On the other hand, Baltimore is playing well, with a lot of confidence, and the Orioles blasted the Yankees on Saturday night.
This was an embarrassing loss, even by the Yankees' recent standards, writes David Waldstein.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman is not ready to throw in the towel.
The Orioles bashed their rivals, writes Dan Connolly.
Some trade stuff:
1. The Rays are still in evaluation mode -- not targeting anything specific -- knowing that they will be getting help from within as David Price and Alex Cobb return to the rotation from the disabled list.
2. I wrote here last week how the Diamondbacks, seeking starting pitching, have interest in the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo, a Mexican-born player who could be a marketable player for Arizona. In their conversations with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija, Chicago asked for top pitching prospect Archie Bradley as well as Tyler Skaggs. That ended those very brief discussions.
The perception of at least one rival evaluator is that the Diamondbacks are open to moving Skaggs, and that when Arizona gets a starting pitcher, Skaggs is likely the guy who will be at the center of that deal.
3. The Giants are not only looking for pitching, but a right-handed-hitting outfielder. San Francisco's offense has faded, and on Saturday, Matt Cain's strong outing was wasted. They've scored 18 runs in their last nine games.
4. Matt Garza has allowed just two runs over his last three starts and is throwing well, and rival evaluators believe the Cubs will move him quickly. They should be able to get more than the value of a first-round draft pick, given Garza's history of pitching successfully in the AL East. Besides the NL West teams, the clubs interested are said to be the Rangers and Orioles. Keep in mind that anytime the Padres engage with the Cubs, they could have a slight advantage because some of Chicago's front office -- most notably, GM Jed Hoyer -- came from San Diego and knows the team's farm system well.
5. For the Cardinals and other teams, the trade deadline is coming into focus, writes Derrick Goold.
6. The phone of Brewers GM Doug Melvin is ringing, writes Tom Haudricourt.
7. Henderson Alvarez is ready to rejoin the Miami rotation, and Ricky Nolasco could be the guy he replaces.
Around the league
1. The Pirates are the first team to reach 50 victories. They're 20 games over .500 and in first place.
From Elias: The Pirates are the first team to 50 wins for the first time in more than 50 years (1902, 1903, 1908, 1909, 1921, 1960 were the previous seasons). The Pirates haven't made the playoffs since 1992. In the 20 full seasons since then, Pittsburgh had, on average, earned its 50th win of the season in Game No. 113.
The Pirates still have a long way to go, says Clint Hurdle.
2. Bruce Rondon got a chance to pitch in a close game, and it didn't go well. The Tigers have the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award in Max Scherzer and the likely front-runner for the MVP in Miguel Cabrera. They have so many great parts to their team -- and as of this morning, they are slogging along at 43-36, 14-16 over their last 30 games. Detroit's lead over Cleveland is one game.
As one executive mused the other day: The Indians are a dangerous team, in spite of their flaws, because they play with a ton of energy and have a good offense. Nick Swisher got a big hit for them Saturday.
There's pressure on these five Tigers, writes Bob Wojnowski.
3. Matt Harvey could be headed for an early shutdown. Which makes sense, given his importance in the Mets' world and the fact that the team figures to be playing meaningless games in September. Save the bullets for when they really count.
4. Oakland suffered a key loss when Jarrod Parker went down with a hamstring injury. Presumably, this could open the door for Dan Straily or Sonny Gray to be promoted.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Orioles are not close to signing catcher Matt Wieters, and unless something changes dramatically, the expectation within the Baltimore organization is that Wieters will play out his time with the team before becoming a free agent after the 2015 season. Wieters is represented by Scott Boras, whose clients almost always go into free agency rather than sign a long-term deal once they get within range of the open market.
2. Jeff Francoeur was designated for assignment.
3. Cole Hamels is getting a mental break.
4. Kevin Gregg's success could lead to a headache for Dale Sveum, because it's likely Gregg will get traded and the manager will have to find another closer.
5. Drew Pomeranz will start for the Rockies today, writes Patrick Saunders.
6. The Dodgers' outfield is about to get crowded with the return of Carl Crawford.
Dings and dents
1. Bryce Harper is set for his final rehab game.
2. Johnny Cueto was placed on the disabled list.
3. For now, Evan Longoria isn't going on the disabled list, writes Marc Topkin.
4. Derek Jeter must run the bases before taking the next step in his rehabilitation.
5. Peter Bourjos got hurt again.
6. Josh Beckett is going to have surgery.
7. Evan Gattis is waiting for clearance.
1. The Nationals lost and dropped back to .500.
2. Cliff Lee enjoyed a fantastic outing, but it was not enough.
3. Arizona's bullpen fell apart in the eighth inning.
4. Wade Davis had a terrible outing.
5. Josh Hamilton's glove was pivotal.
6. The Mariners faltered.
7. The Braves rallied.
8. Ron Washington had to take one for the team.
• Jose Bautista put on a show.
• Boston third-base coach Brian Butterfield took one too many chances, writes Tim Britton.
• A Red Sox reliever got roughed up.
• A pitch near the head of Miguel Cabrera could lead to some retaliation today, writes John Lowe. From John's story:
As Cabrera batted to lead off the [10th] inning, Rays closer Fernando Rodney threw a pitch that Cabrera apparently felt came too close to his head. After Rodney struck Cabrera out, the clearly steamed Cabrera launched a series of verbal volleys from the dugout in the direction of either the mound or the Rays' dugout as the inning continued.
Cabrera declined to talk about the matter afterward, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland said:
"To throw up there in that area (the head) is not acceptable. Somebody pays a price for that throughout baseball. That's the way baseball is. That's not free. There's no free lunch."
• The Indians played a crazy doubleheader Friday, and Trevor Bauer's short outing was just one of many stories to come out of it. As Paul Hoynes writes, Bauer pitched out of the stretch from the outset of the game without testing this approach in the minors.
• Paul Konerko's back is feeling better, and he hopes to avoid the disabled list.
• Kyle Gibson won his debut. He lived up to the high hopes of fans, writes Tom Powers.
• Mike Scioscia got an apology from Bo Porter.
• The Mariners have a bunch of top prospects in Triple-A.
• Dillon Gee pitched with a sore arm.
• Davey Johnson is closing out his managerial career on his own terms.
• Jacob Turner went the distance.
• Charlie Morton has been helped by his extended rehab, writes Michael Sanserino.
• Ray Searage is glue.
• Alfonso Soriano helped the Cubs rally.
From Elias: Adam Wainwright threw a complete game and allowed only one run against the Athletics on Saturday to enter July with a 2.22 ERA in 125⅔ innings. The last pitcher to finish June with an ERA under 2.25 in at least 125 innings was Randy Johnson for the Diamondbacks in 2000 (131⅔ innings, 1.57 ERA). The last Cardinals pitcher to do so was Bob Gibson in 1969 (140 innings, 2.19 ERA).
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Wainwright shut down Oakland:
A. Wainwright threw his fastball just 31 percent of the time against the A's, his third-lowest rate of the season, but it was still a dominant out pitch for him.
B. His 35 fastballs netted him a season-high 13 outs, with just two baserunners allowed.
C. Five of his eight strikeouts came via his heater, matching a season high.
D. He got the A's to whiff on 26 percent of their swings at fastballs, his second-best fastball swing-and-miss rate in 2013.
E. He had success pitching away against the A's, who went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts and six ground outs in at-bats ending in a pitch on the outer third of the strike zone or off the outside corner.
F. He held the A's 1-5 batters to one hit in 18 at-bats (.056 BA), and seven of the 17 outs came via strikeout. Entering the game, 1-5 batters had a .276 average against Wainwright.
• Matt Adams was The Man at the plate for the Cardinals.
• Devin Mesoraco lifted the Reds.
• The Dodgers gave it up, then took it back, Dylan Hernandez writes.
• Chase Headley is off to a slow start, again.
• Alex Rodriguez signed an antidrug pledge in 2009 here in Baltimore, writes Ken Davidoff.
There is one part of the Rodriguez equation that neither he nor the Yankees can really quantify: If, in fact, he is returning without the help of performance-enhancing drugs -- which he admitted to using for at least a crucial part of his career -- does this greatly hurt his chances of being an effective player in his late 30s?
He was an above-average third baseman in 2012 at age 37, but if it turns out that this was with the help of Biogenesis chemistry, then what would he be at age 38 coming off major hip surgery without Biogenesis?
• Rodriguez told Dan Martin that he's all good with the Yankees.
• There was sad news about former pitcher Justin Miller.
And today will be better than yesterday.