Reports of the home run’s death have been greatly exaggerated this year in some MLB cities, though Arlington isn’t one of them.
The Texas Rangers are facing the possibility of not having a 20-home run hitter for a second straight season, though it seems to be a remote possibility. Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland are two away, and Shin-Soo Choo needs four for the second 20-homer season of his career.
Two former Rangers, though, are on their way to 40 home runs and beyond. One, Nelson Cruz, is exceeding all expectations in the first year of his four-year, $57 million contract with Seattle that was built on being the only player to hit 40 in 2014.
Cruz entered Saturday with 39, and that was one behind the other ex-Rangers player, Chris Davis. Thirteen players had already collected 30 after only 11 hit 30 all of last season. Twenty-five seems like a reasonable possibility this season.
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Davis is the last to hit 50 in a season, and considering where he plays and that he will play most of his final games of the season at other hitter-friendly ballparks, 50 might be within reach. He had five in the first three games this month.
Even if for some reason he gets to only 44, his timing for a rebound power season couldn’t be any better.
The Rangers’ one-time first baseman of the future will charge into free agency as soon as the final out of the World Series is made.
152home runs the past four seasons for former Ranger Chris Davis, most in baseball.
Despite the surge this season, at least relative to 2014, power is still a commodity that teams covet, and Davis has power. Just like Cruz before him, Davis could be looking at a significant contract this off-season.
“I can’t honestly say that I haven’t thought about it, but I try not to dwell on it because we have so much at stake right now,” Davis said last weekend as the Orioles visited Globe Life Park. “More than anything, I really want to finish up strong here. Whether we talk an extension with the Orioles or whether I’m going to be somewhere else, that remains to be seen. I’ll deal with that whenever the time comes.”
Davis, 29, is making $12 million this season in his final year as an arbitration-eligible player. He would be wise to sign an extension with Baltimore, where his power numbers get a bump at the cozy Camden Yards.
The Orioles, it would seem, have the money to at least consider keeping Davis after passing on Cruz and Nick Markakis last winter. The Orioles also probably wouldn’t want to see a top-flight slugger leave for a second straight off-season only to flourish elsewhere.
Davis and Cruz aren’t too dissimilar as hitters. Cruz is a better hitter, though he and Davis are prone to extended slumps just as easily as they are capable of extended hot streaks.
Davis has been hot since the All-Star break. Entering Saturday, he had hit 21 homers in 46 games and had posted a .287 batting average, a .377 on-base percentage, a .665 slugging percentage. That’s a pretty good slash line.
He hit two homers Friday, giving him back-to-back two-homer games. His second homer Wednesday walked off Tampa Bay. His second homer Aug. 15 walked off Oakland. He has six two-homer games this season.
“In the second half I’ve been able to string some at-bats together and really hang onto the feel I’ve been looking for,” said Davis, who still lives in the Metroplex during the off-season. “We’ve played in a lot of places where I’ve had some success. When you go to places like that, mentally you have a certain sense of confidence.”
Cruz doesn’t strike out nearly as often as Davis, but will hit 150 strikeouts this season. Davis looks to be a shoo-in for 200 Ks, a plateau he has never reached despite all the belly-aching about his strikeout rate.
He did have a 199-strikeout season in 2013, his 53-homer, 138-RBI season. During his horrendous 2014 season, in which he batted .196 and was limited to 26 homers in part because of a 25-game suspension for using Adderall without a doctor’s note, his 33-percent strikeout rate is only fourth-tenths higher than the 2015 stat.
“As you well know, and as the people in this area well know, when I struggle I strike out at a rapid pace,” Davis said.
And Davis has always struck out a bunch and will always strike out a bunch. Though a popular school of thought is that a strikeout is just another out, a Davis whiff can be costly in some situations.
Potential off-season suitors, as well as the Orioles, know that’s the price to pay for all those home runs. The Rangers, it appears, will be in the same boat with Joey Gallo.
Davis hopes Baltimore continues to keep him and his power around, but some team is going to pay handsomely for him this off-season.
“It would be a really tough place to leave,” said Davis, who is represented by Scott Boras. “But I understand it’s a business.”
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