Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 6/4/13
Chris Davis has had power for as long as he’s been a professional, and probably longer. His first year, in Low-A, he slugged .534. The next year he slugged .598. In Triple-A he slugged over .600. The power is what got Davis to the majors. But Davis now is taking things to new levels. It wouldn’t be right to say Davis has been hitting everything, because he’s missed quite a lot. But he’s hit more things than he used to, and that’s why he’s currently leading the majors in home runs, with 20. His isolated slugging percentage is more than double Adrian Beltre‘s career number. It’s more than double Robinson Cano‘s. It’s got 50 points on Babe Ruth‘s. If baseballs had snot in them, there would be a lot of snot on Chris Davis’ uniform. Davis possesses what you might call “easy power.” Several people have characterized it as “effortless.” According to FanGraphs commenter farrpar, “He has the most effortless power in baseball, no doubt about it.” According to this guy, “Wow! Chris Davis! Effortless Grand-slam!!! Go O’s.” According to David Miller, “The thing about Davis is that his swing looks so effortless on homerun balls like the one he hit on Sunday.” According to OsLuvrInKy, “Gotta love it. His swings just look so effortless.” Last season, in fact, Davis hit a home run on a broken bat. Because Davis is all the some of the rage right now, I’ve decided to prepare a top-five list of his most effortless home-run swings of the 2013 season so far. One way to measure effortlessness would be biomechanical examination. Another way would be guessing. 5 Date: April 3 Pitcher: Jeremy Hellickson HR Distance: 422 feet (data from ESPN Home Run Tracker) HR Speed off bat: 108.4 miles per hour Unseen is here is there were runners on the corners. Davis looks like he’s simply trying to shoot the ball the other way. I remember high school baseball practices in which we had entire drills where we’d try to hit the ball to the opposite field. You’d basically cut down on your swing and throw your hands at the ball, and it’s entirely possible I had some terrible high school baseball coaches. It’s something we would try to do when we were trying to make something happen and move the runners around. Davis looks like he’s participating in such a drill, except he doesn’t really get the point of it: “Now slap the ball past the shortstop.” “Can I just hit a dinger?” “That’s — that’s not really….” “I’ll try it your way.” “Good.” “Whoops, I accidentally hit a dinger.” Exerts as much effort as: Opening a can of soup, with a can opener 4 Date: May 24 Pitcher: Ramon Ortiz HR Distance: 400 feet HR Speed off bat: 105.8 miles per hour It’s almost a swing in slow motion. Except it’s not a swing in slow motion, because Chris Davis pulled a home run. The follow-through is so calm, so composed, so steady, so gentle. It’s a beautiful follow-through. It’s a follow-through that is of beauty. And it’s hard to imagine a guy having so smooth a follow-through if he just put everything he had into a swing. No, it looks as if Chris Davis were just practicing a swing and follow-through at 50% while standing in the box — and Ramon Ortiz happened to throw a baseball that hit Davis’ bat in the barrel by coincidence. Exerts as much effort as: Petting a nice cat 3 Date: May 29 Pitcher: Tyler Clippard HR Distance: 406 feet HR Speed off bat: 102.2 miles per hour I don’t even know why Chris Davis has legs. Wait, no, that’s ridiculous, that’s not what I meant. Obviously he needs to move places. But as a batter, I feel like Davis’ legs could be asleep or removed and he’d still slug .650 without breaking a sweat. This is just Davis flipping the ball to center field, completely with his arms. This is a gentle game of tennis. Were it any other batter, you’d look at the .gif and assume “shallow pop-up.” Davis cleared rows. His swing ends up with him in perfect home-run-watching position. That’s probably not a coincidence. Exerts as much effort as: Almost getting up off the couch, then not 2 Date: May 23 Pitcher: Brandon Morrow HR Distance: 390 feet HR Speed off bat: 109.2 miles per hour This is a swat. This is what a swat is. Broadly, swat is used to refer to any kind of home run. Were it used to refer to a specific kind of home run, though, it would be this kind. This is Chris Davis swatting at the baseball like one might swat at unwelcome mosquitoes near a lake. It’s as if Davis didn’t like the baseball being so close to him, so he used his hands to bat it away. It went screaming down the line for Davis’ second-fastest home run this season. Look at the catcher’s head. Tell me if he expected that to happen. Exerts as much effort as: Listening to the wind 1 Date: April 28 Pitcher: Sean Doolittle HR Distance: 419 feet HR Speed off bat: 104.3 miles per hour Gary Thorne: 0-2 delivery, had to reach for that off the end of the bat, and look how far he hit it[...] one-handed, off the end of the bat. I’ve accepted the fact that this home run is never going to make sense to me. I mean, I see everything happen. I trust my eyes, but I don’t understand how the first process leads to the ultimate result. I mean, for God’s sake: What is that? A Texas-Leaguer to shallow center, right? A swinging bunt to the first-base side of the mound? A soft comebacker to Doolittle? No, stupid, that’s a 400-plus-foot home run. Davis was behind in the count 0-and-2, and Doolittle threw a breaking ball too close to take. Have to protect, yes? Davis protected, and he looked as if his entire mission was to make contact with the baseball, somehow, no matter how gently. So he reached out and tapped the ball and it went out of the ballpark. Even Davis must have been surprised by this home run. In the Ken Griffey Jr. game for N64 there was a cheat code such that Griffey would homer every time he came up. This swing is that cheat code in real life. Davis doesn’t have a game named after him, but he might soon, at this pace. And he won’t need a code to hit home runs, because he’ll just hit home runs, all the time, normally. If you look at the screenshot it’s like Davis literally swung in his sleep. Exerts as much effort as: Watching someone blink —– Sometimes pitchers will pull back on their fastballs to get better command. At less than full effort, they figure, they’ll be better equipped to hit their spots. To the eye, it looks like Davis is taking this approach with his bat. It’s like he never swings 100% because he knows he doesn’t have to if he wants to hit the ball hard. At well below 100%, he can actually make a reasonable amount of contact. God help us if Davis ever does swing at 100% and he makes contact. We know Davis has never gotten all of a baseball because Davis has never caused a baseball and the surrounding baseball stadium to explode. It would be nice if things were to remain that way, even if it means my curiosity is left unsated. Chris Davis is why that one strikeout-prone power prospect is still in your favorite team’s system. Most of the time, you end up with a guy who strikes out too much. Every once in a while, though, you’re left with someone able to amaze. No one in baseball makes homers look easier than Chris Davis. And now he’s decided he wants to hit more of them.
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