Orioles slugger Chris Davis is on pace for one of the worst seasons in MLB history

Monday night, the last place Baltimore Orioles suffered another loss, this one a 12-inning defeat to the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards (BOS 2, BAL 0). The O's are now 19-46 on the season, the worst record in baseball. 

Needless to say, when you're playing at a 115-loss pace, a lot of things going wrong. Baltimore ranks 29th in baseball in runs scored per game (3.52) and 28th in runs allowed per game (5.22). Yeesh. The O's have been terrible, no doubt about it, and no Orioles player has been worse than Chris Davis.

In Monday's game Davis went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts, and he heard boos after each strikeout. That dropped his season batting line to an unfathomable .150/.227/.227 (28 OPS+) in 229 plate appearances. One-hundred-and-sixty-two players have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title right now. Among those 162, Davis ranks ...

  • 162nd in batting average (by 19 points)
  • 161st in on-base percentage (Lewis Brinson is at .215)
  • 162nd in slugging (by 57 points)
  • 162nd in OPS+ (by 19 points)

Davis has been, by a not small margin, the worst hitter in baseball this season. I mean, he's appeared in 57 games and scored 10 runs, four on his own homers. He was once one of the most feared sluggers in baseball -- Davis swatted 126 homers from 2013-15, remember -- but now pitchers attack Davis with impunity.

Here is the percentage of pitches Davis has seen in the strike zone throughout his career. During his peak years, pitchers rarely went after him in the zone because they respected his power. Now they go right after him:

chris-davis-zone-rate.png
For the first time in his career, Chris Davis is seeing more pitches in the zone than the league average hitter. FanGraphs

Make no mistake, Orioles players outside Manny Machado have been terrible this season. Davis has been the worst of the worst. In fact, he's on pace to have the worst season in history by the Baseball-Reference.com version of WAR. Davis has minus-2.1 WAR through 65 team games, putting him on pace for minus-5.2 WAR in 162 games. Ouch.

Here are the five worst seasons in history according to Baseball-Reference.com WAR:

  1. Jerry Royster, 1977 Atlanta Braves: minus-4.0 WAR (.216/.278/.288 in 491 PA)
  2. Jim Levey, 1933 St. Louis Browns: minus-3.9 WAR (.195/.237/.240 in 567 PA)
  3. Jim Lillie, 1886 Kansas City Cowboys: minus-3.9 WAR (.175/.197/.197 in 427 PA)
  4. George Wright, 1985 Texas Rangers: minus-3.7 WAR (.190/.241/.242 in 395 PA)
  5. Jose Guillen, 1997 Pittsburgh Pirates: minus-3.3 WAR (.267/.300/.412 in 526 PA)

Davis very well might be a minus-3.0 WAR player before the end of the month. I don't think he'll be this bad all season, so I'd bet the over on him finishing with minus-5.2 WAR, but the fact we're even having this conversation is bad enough. Davis has been that terrible. His 28 OPS+ would be one of the 40 worst marks in history by a qualified hitter.

Keep in mind Davis is not an aging player in baseball years. He turned only 32 in March. The normal baseball player aging curve would suggest he still has a few productive seasons in him. Maybe not peak 40-plus homer seasons, but not 28 OPS+ seasons either. Apparently that is not the case though. Davis has always been a flawed him. Now his flaws are more evident than ever.

To make matters worse, Davis is in the third year of his seven-year, $161 million contract. The Orioles owe him $92 million from 2019-22. Because of that, he's going to play. The O's are going to be a last place team with or without Davis in the lineup. It makes sense to keep playing him just to see whether he can turn it around, and potentially salvage the contract to some degree.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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