Every position-player in Big-League Baseball is, or has been, a “good-hitter”. This season (2014), as of July 19th, Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles has established his batting average of .200 as the lowest in Major League Baseball. Does that make him a “bad-hitter”? Just last season, he was vying for the American League M.V.P. Is he doing things at the plate this year that are completely different from last season? Not really! He is the same powerful left-handed hitter with a fluid and beautiful swing and picturesque follow-through that made his debut with the Orioles last season. But the pitchers last year, who had not familiarized themselves with his “margins-for-error” (except on rare occasions), let him claim dominion in their one-on-one confrontations.
This year, Davis’ same “margins-of-error” are still present, but someone has informed the other teams’ pitchers how to exploit that deficiency quotient to their advantages. (He still managed to hit 15 or 16 H.R.s, so they haven’t been perfect in their applications.) When Chris actually begins his swing at a pitched ball, he is down low, and his body facilitates the movement of hips, shoulders, hands, bat with majestic beauty and form.
Unfortunately, all the preliminary and inessential movement that precedes his swing are what contribute greatly to his current batting deficiency.
Since “margins-of-error” include mental as well as physical habits that detract from mechanical efficiency for batting prowess, both the pitchers’ and his mind-sets have been rearranged to favor the pitchers. Last year, his mental inclination to “look away” for both fast and breaking pitches (since his “open-stance” had him moving or leaning toward the plate), and respond quickly to a fast-ball on the inside or over the heart of the plate, proved itself as an effective strategy to compliment his positive physical attributes. This year, as the pitchers have found the “chinks” in his armor, his mental alertness is not as keen to detect the pitchers’ tendencies to “jam” him inside after they’ve induced him to foul both fast and breaking pitches away. His rhythm has been confused to the point of pulling the outside pitch for easy ground-balls to an over-shifted right-side of the infield, and is striking out on balls in the dirt. In his right mental attitude, he waits more patiently on the pitch moving away from him and goes with the pitch to the left side of the field.
Chris has the raw-strength and majestically powerful swing of Bonds, while Shawn displayed, to a degree, the “splendid” finesse and wiry, slender grace and batting elegance of Williams. Unfortunately, at least one is harbinger to that inauspicious epithet of “greatness forlorn”. In Shawn Green’s day, Baseball didn’t have acute access to the Saber-metric approach to evaluating all the subtle accommodations to batting (as well as pitching) proclivities, so Shawn had a somewhat illustrious career until the “Book” came out on his simple deficiencies.
When he finished his career, after the Dodgers, in 2007, at age 34, he was still the same physical (and mental) specimen that he had been for years, strong, wiry, and potentially potent – His lone foible, his unwillingness to change his approach to the pitched ball. He insisted (until the end) on Standing Tall, in Open-Stance, while gliding toward the plate, even with all pitchers now jamming him with inside fast-balls, and catching him off-balance on soft pitches away. He could have been the Next Ted Williams!
Coming Soon: Part 2 of 3 – Why Shawn Green wasn’t the next Ted Williams!