Over the last three seasons, Oakland Athletics outfielder and designated hitter Khris Davis has been arguably the best kept secret in the major leagues. If the A’s miraculously qualify for the American League postseason, the right-handed slugger will finally be appreciated and viewed by a national audience. It’s something Davis deserves.
Davis was, to a degree, on a national stage last night, when his game-winning home run made shockwaves throughout MLB and the outlets that cover the sport. Against the Texas Rangers, Davis and the A’s were down to their final strike, trailing 6-5 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Davis faces Jose Leclerc, a good young pitcher looking for the save, and the count is 2-2. The Rangers have little to play for, but in Davis’ case, this is big, and the pressure is mounting.
A high, outside fastball clocked at 98 MPH is sent toward the plate, and Davis jumps on it, trying to stay alive in one of the biggest at-bats of the season to date. He absolutely rakes that thing, sending an opposite field home run over the right field fence and wayyyy outta there. The swagger with which Davis trots around the bases could make a sad man grin.
— Oakland Athletics 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) July 26, 2018
A Blake Treinen save capped off the comeback win Davis’ home run sparked. It was his sixth home run in his past four games, and his 27th of the season. He’s on pace for his third straight 40-home run season, a mark no Athletics player has ever reached, which is crazy considering the amount of talent the A’s have had over the years. Reggie Jackson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi … nobody reaches Khris Davis.
Playing for the A’s and, previously, the Milwaukee Brewers, Davis has never appeared in a postseason game, but with the A’s charging into the AL playoff picture having won 26 of their last 33 games, this could be the year the power-hitting, underrated star suits up in a playoff match. Even if it’s just for one game, MLB will be a better place for having more eyes on the man they call “Khrush.”
Only three players in Major League Baseball have hit more home runs than Davis’ 27 this season, and all three are AL Most Valuable Player contenders; J.D. Martinez (32), Jose Ramirez (30), and Mike Trout (28). In addition, no player has knocked as many long balls as Davis (132) has in the past three calendar years, with Nelson Cruz (124), Edwin Encarnacion (123), Nolan Arenado (121), and Giancarlo Stanton (109) — all revered power-hitting icons — coming short.
Davis is hitting .253/.327/.543 with an .870 OPS, 138 OPS+, 77 RBIs, and 33 walks. He’s kind of one-dimensional in that all he can provide to a team is the ability to crush heaps of cork and leather night in and night out, but baseball isn’t a game for the versatile anymore, it’s one for the powerful. To embrace the newer gameplay style of the Statcast era, embracing guys like Davis — strikeout-heavy hitters who remain entertaining under the prospect that they can torch a baseball on every at-bat — is essential.
Though Davis is known by hardcore baseball fans and MLB stat geeks, he’s far from a household name. He has never been an All-Star, never won or been close to winning any significant awards, and plays for a rebuilding team in a small market dominated by the dynastic local NBA team. With the numbers above, though, he shouldn’t be this unknown and unheard of.
He’s in the same realm of power-hitting excellence as Stanton, Aaron Judge, and other perennial MVP contenders, and yet he’s just Khris Davis, the guy on that crappy team with the same name as Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis but spelled differently. All he has to his name in MLB is one 10th-place MVP vote and a 22nd-place finish in 2017.
In the 29th-most hitter-friendly ballpark in the majors by added runs and added home runs, Davis is about to have his third-straight 4o-home run season, after clobbering 43 last season and 42 in 2016. He’s special and nobody knows about it.
With the Athletics on the verge of a postseason berth (1.5 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the AL ‘s second Wild Card spot) well ahead of their rebuild’s schedule, heavily under the powerful influence of Davis and his 42-home run pace, we might get to see this undersized, unheralded slugging force play in October. All of baseball will be better for it.