Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is in real danger of having the worst season in the history of baseball. That’s not a joke or hyperbole. He’s playing unbelievably, historically bad baseball:
Davis went 0-4 last night, and is now hitting .152/.232/.232 on the season. He’s struck out 81 times, knocked in 15 runs, and hit four homers. You see plenty of ghastly stat lines from aging and marginal players, but the difference between Davis and the common fringe big-leaguer suffering through a long slump is that Davis is doing all of this as a fixture in the Orioles’ lineup. He’s played in 55 of Baltimore’s 61 games so far, and he’s fourth on the team with 220 plate appearances.
Given these conditions, it’s impossible to imagine a baseball player having a worse effect on his team’s fortunes. Davis has somehow scored just nine runs all season, and as Diane Firstman pointed out, has managed to drive in just 11 of the 109 runners who have been on base in front of him. If you want to see something really sad, go check out Davis’s video highlight page on MLB.com. There are just... no highlights there. His smattering of dingers is accounted for, but it’s mostly just videos with titles like “Davis places tag on Canha, call confirmed.” This is baseball played by a man who does not belong on a baseball field.
So the question is why are the Orioles continuing to run Davis out there every day? You’d expect any team with a -1.9 WAR-shaped hole at first base to look for answers elsewhere, or at least to cut down on the number of cancerous at-bats Davis is producing.
But the thing about the Orioles is that they don’t give a shit about anything that happens on the field this year. They are 19-42, Manny Machado will be gone by next winter at the latest, and all the organization is trying to do is zombie-walk through this season so that they can get on with the post-Machado rebuild. It also doesn’t help that they’ve got Davis signed through 2022, and his $23 million average annual salary makes him completely untradable. A team trying to win games would at some point have to swallow its pride and bench the bad player making that much money, but so long as the Orioles aren’t really invested in winning games, they won’t have to make that choice.
In the meantime, Davis will continue to go out there every day and churn towards one of the more embarrassing seasons in sports history. He batted cleanup as recently as last week, and manager Buck Showalter could only throw up his hands and call the situation “complicated” when asked why. It’s not really that complicated, though. Davis is a bad player with a hefty contract playing for a team that doesn’t care about winning, and those are the reasons why he is in this particularly dreadful situation.