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J.D. Davis is Getting Robbed

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J.D. Davis is Getting Robbed

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Trout, Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judgeand… JD Davis? As of this writing (5/14/22), Davis is fourth on the Statcast expected stats leaderboard behind three of the best sluggers in baseball. Sure, he has about less than half of the plate appearances (62) as those other three (average of 124), but his .454 xwOBA is bright red nonetheless. Sadly, Davis is only slugging .300. Compare that with Yordan Alvarez’s .697, and you wonder why I’m mentioning Davis and Alvarez in the same paragraph. Somehow, Alvarez is actually expected to be slugging even higher, .082 points higher to be exact. Davis? He’s expected to be slugging .313 points higher, or a total of .613. Davis holds the largest difference between his wOBA (.301) and his xwOBA (.454) among hitters with enough balls in play to qualify for the leaderboard. Ladies and gentlemen, the man has been getting robbed and I give you the first example:

That ball was struck at 102 mph at an angle of 14 degrees. The estimated batting average by Statcast’s combination of hit speed and angle was 0.714. While there was an infield shift on, the outfield alignment is listed as “Standard” in the data. But you do not have to drill into any data at all after watching the video to realize the ball was smoked, it was just smoked right at an outfielder.

Davis had close to a full season in 2019 when he played in 140 games and accumulated 453 plate appearances. He finished the season slugging .527 when the league average on the season was .435 and excellent Statcast percentile rankings including a 92nd xwOBA, 98th xBA, 91st xOBP, and 90th EV. That’s a lot of statcast red. He took a slight step backward in the shortened 2020 season (didn’t we all?) But climbed back up in 2021 despite losing time on the IL (84 days) due to a bruised / strained right hand. Here’s a look at his career-long change in wOBA and SLG:

JD Davis wOBA / SLG

What looks like a downward trend between 2021 and 2022 is actually just bad luck. It could also be due to an increased ground ball rate. While he hits the ball hard, he’s putting it on the ground quite a bit and when teams shift on him, his wOBA drops tremendously. In 2022 Davis’ wOBA in non-shift situations is .327 and .099 when the shift is on.

JD Davis GB / LD / FB

His pull rate is also up significantly and has been increasing in the last three seasons and, along with shifts, could be contributing to his unexpectedly low production for the way he’s been hitting the ball. That’s really the point here, JD Davis is smoking the ball, but it just keeps finding defenders. Unfortunately, Davis has not accumulated enough batted ball events to be placed into percentiles in 2022, but so far he has improved on his hard hit% (up 26.9%), his exit velocity (up 4.6 MPH), and his barrel% (up 4.3%) from 2021. With all those metrics working in the right direction, something just has to give for Davis eventually.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of high probability hits defined by Statcast’s “estimated ba using speedangle” and “estimated woba using speedangle” metrics:

xwOBA: 1,827, xBA: 0.969, launch speed: 107 mph, launch angle: 23 degrees, Shift: None

xwOBA: 1,819, xBA: 0.929, launch speed: 105 mph, launch angle: 30 degrees, Shift: infield / outfield strategic

xwOBA: 0.823, xBA: 0.843, launch speed: 107 mph, launch angle: 9 degrees, Shift: None

In each of these situations, Davis is making great contact with very good skills metrics backing up that claim. In two instances, Davis makes it to the warning track and if the air was less dense, the ball would be over the fence. If he can keep up these batted ball skills, the ball will start finding the grass. When that happens, we should start to see a gap closing between his wOBA and xwOBA, along with other counting stat accumulation that comes from hitting with ducks on the pond. 30 of his 66 (stat updated 5/16/22) plate appearances have come with runners on base.

You might be skeptical about his fantasy value, and that would be justified. Our Mets Roster Resource page lists Davis as a projected platoon hitter vs left-handed pitching. This season, Davis has had 29 PAs against lefties and 37 against righties. He’s had six games so far where he’s only had one pinch-hit plate appearance. But, with Robinson Cano now in San Diego and Davis’ experience lining up as a DH, more opportunities could be on the way. It’s also nice that he has 3B eligibility in most leagues.

Davis is likely one of the only players in the top 15 or so on the Statcast expected stats leaderboard who is available in your league. He is rostered in less than 1% of ESPN leagues and while I would not drop an everyday player to roster him, I would use an open bench spot to stash a hitter that has skills. There is hope. In Jeff Zimmerman’s most recent Lineup Analysishe notes that the Mets’ DH spot is the only spot open in the lineup and that it’s between, “JD Davis (.688 OPS), Dominic Smith (.514 OPS), and Luis Guillorme (.747 OPS) ”. It will be a “time will tell” sort of situation, but time might just tell us that JD Davis has pop and is primed for a breakout if he can just get some more consistent playing time… and a little more luck.

Statistics in this post reflect games through Friday, May 13th.

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