Khris Davis is a masher. He crushed pitching as a minor leaguer, and has boomed 33 home runs in 200 career games.
Now, I was leading the ‘I believe in Khris Davis‘ movement even before he surprised everyone during Spring Training in 2013, and I even had the opportunity to interview him last year. But despite my clear bias towards the man, Davis has a fault that pitchers took advantage of in 2014; he can’t hit the changeup.
The Milwaukee Brewers, as a team, weren’t thrown many changeups in 2014 but, according to Baseball Savant, Davis saw 225 of them alone, leading the club. The fastest changeup was 90 mph and the slowest was 74.2 mph. As the season wore on, pitchers began to figure out that the changeup was his Achilles’ heel, and they also discovered that they needed to pitch him down on the corners and out of the zone (see picture below).
They absolutely dominated Davis with low changeups and stayed away from leaving them up in the zone. With the aggressive nature of Davis, pitchers knew their changeup didn’t need to be a strike for him to take a whack at it, and he ended up whiffing at 25.3% of them.
Here’s a breakdown of what Davis did when we was thrown a change. Spoiler: It’s not pretty.
He swung and missed more often than he put the ball in play, and managed only eight hits for a .131 average. Just five players had worse batting averages versus the change (minimum 50 ABs): Jason Kipnis (.098), Adam Dunn (.100), Brandon Moss (.101), Alex Avila (.115), and Brian Dozier (.122).
After all of this, I probably don’t need to tell you that Davis was worth -5 runs against the changeup, the 10th-worst mark in baseball among qualified hitters. However, with that being said, he was worth positive runs versus every other pitch, with the exception of the split-fingered fastball. The changeup seems to be the only pitch with which Davis has a real problem. Sure, he batted just .217 against the four-seam fastball, but he knocked 10 of them out of the park and garnered a .276 isolated power.
2015 will be a big year for Davis. He’s entering his age-27 season, and will most likely have to compete with Gerardo Parra for playing time. If he can’t be at least average with the changeup and if he continues going fishing out of the zone, pitchers will have a field day with him.