Series Preview: Cleveland Indians (38-36) @ Baltimore Orioles (42-34)

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This is supposed to be a preview of the Baltimore Orioles, but let’s focus on what really matters here.

Chris Davis.

First, let’s look back to the beginning of the legend. In September of last season Chris Davis hit 10 home runs in 28 games, almost a third of his total output for the season. He was tremendous, and a major driving force in the Baltimore Orioles’ drive towards the postseason. It was a short stay in October for the O’s, but people watching them closely saw the beginnings of something that could be very special.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Before his September bombing and ensuing explosion on the national scene this year, Davis had been kicking around baseball since 2008 with the Texas Rangers. He mostly spent time between Triple-A Oklahoma City and Arlington, being one of seemingly a dozen gigantic white guys the Rangers kept trying to get to stick at first. It never really happened, and he struck out a lot, didn’t walk much, mashed in the minors and didn’t do anything when called up, and was generally just another stiff. We’ve seen so many of them come and go, from Justin Smoak to Matt LaPorta to Mitch Moreland to, I don’t know, Andy Marte?

But baseball is a magical thing sometimes. Whether it just takes time or some luck or more importantly hard work, Davis has been remade to a fantastic, dangerous hitter. Just this past Sunday, he was intentionally walked with two outs and two men on, in the first inning. Simply, he’s spectacular. My favorite heralding of his greatness came from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, describing his “easy power”, and my second favorite from their sister site NotGraphs, by Carson Cistulli. The ball doesn’t jump off the bat, it just kind of Caddilacs its way on out of the park. Casual, smooth, powerful. It’s amazing. Now Davis is hitting .336/.412/.723(!) and leads baseball with 27 home runs. He hit 30 last season. He is TREMENDOUS.

One neat thing i read about Davis, when he joined the Orioles their hitting coach Jim Presley got him to change his preparation completely. Where once he would go to the cage and take dozens of tremendous swings, mashing the ball, Presley got him to hit off a tee and use a series of hoops set up around the cage so Davis learned to control where he’s hitting the ball. It’s a drill none other than Miguel Cabrera uses and loves. Davis being as powerful as he is, it doesn’t take that much effort to donk the hell out of one. This drill may have been the centerpiece in his evolution, because less of his homers are being pulled, he’s blasting them everywhere.

So yeah, in case you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of Chris Davis. I try to invent one trade every day that would get him to end up on the Indians. I figure something like Kluber if he keeps it up or McAllister and some bullpen arm. Would it work? Probably not, because the Orioles aren’t stupid, and anyway he’s only under club control for this year before he becomes a free agent. Someone is going to pony up for him. In the meantime, I’d be okay with Francona giving him the same treatment last year’s manager gave Miguel Cabrera – just walk the guy. The Orioles are batting him fifth still and there’s nobody really behind him that’s all that scary. J.J. Hardy hit 30 homers one season, but he’s not that good.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I’m contractually obligated to also mention phenom Manny Machado, who is having a season to rival that of other young stars like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Manny is hitting .321/.353/.481 and he’s only 20 years old. So if your reaction is “wow”, that’s about right. He might regress a bit in the batting average as his BABIP normalizes, but he’s already shown a flash of ungodly talent, this is only the beginning.

It’s looking like the Orioles are for real. Last year they had that dream “Bizzare-O’s” season, and judging from the crazy out of whack record they had in one run games and the screwy run differential they had, people didn’t think they could replicate it. But even with a bereft pitching staff, they’re right in the thick of things, and I’m of the opinion baseball is better when Baltimore is a factor. Gotta knock those boys in Boston and the Bronx off their high horses a bit.

Oh, and as for the Tribe, Jason Kipnis is currently murdering the baseball, hitting .486 over his last 10 games with as many walks as strikeouts. He almost hit for the cycle the other day, and went 3-for-4 on Sunday. Dude is doing it. He needs to, because right now Nick Swisher is not the man the Indians paid for. Luckily Lonnie Chisenhall is back, to continue his unlikely drive for a batting title.

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