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The Strike Zone

Chris Davis keeps up Miguel Cabrera impersonation with monster day

Chris Davis hit two more home runs and drove in five runs in Baltimore's rout of the Tigers. (AP)Chris Davis hit two more home runs and drove in five runs as Baltimore crushed Detroit. (AP)

Less than two years ago, Chris Davis was a prospect who hadn't panned out, a trade chip whom the Rangers used to acquire a reliever for their stretch run. Now he's found a home in Baltimore, and with every passing day, he continues to cement his place among the game's top sluggers, outhitting even 2012 Triple Crown and MVP winner Miguel Cabrera. On Wednesday, Davis clubbed his major league leading 25th and 26th homers in a 13-3 rout of the Tigers.

Davis' first homer came at the expense of starter Rick Porcello, a two-run shot to leftfield that broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning. Baltimore broke the game open by scoring four more times in the frame, three via a Taylor Teagarden homer. After Davis added an RBI double off Evan Reed during a three-run rally in the seventh, he crushed another two run homer — his sixth in his last eight games — this time off struggling Jose Valverde amid a four-run ninth:

The 27-year-old first baseman is all over the American League leaderboard, now hitting .337/.413/.720 numbers that rank second, second and first, respectively. Additionally, he leads the league lead in OPS (1.132) and total bases (190), ranked second in RBIs (66) and doubles (23) and third in runs scored (51). He began the day leading in OPS+ (195) and third in WAR among position players (3.3), but with the WAR-calculating elves cashing in their vacation day, I don't have an updated total for that.

Davis' 26 homers are seven more than either Edwin Encarnacion or Cabrera, who are tied for second in the league. In fact, he stacks up pretty well against Cabrera (again, OPS+ and WAR don't include today):

PlayerPAHHRRBIBAOBPSLGOPS+WAR
Davis303892666.337.413.7201953.3
Cabrera3251001971.361.452.6321903.9

Davis has the better power numbers by a wide margin, but Cabrera is a hitting machine with the edge in batting average, on-base percentage and WAR. Even before accounting for Wednesday (when Cabrera collected two hits), it's hardly a runaway lead, though it's helped by the latter managing to hold down the fort at third; both players are six runs below average at their positions according to Defensive Runs Saved, the fielding input for Baseball-Reference.com's version of WAR.

All in all, that's not a bad return for a player whom the Orioles acquired — along with Tommy Hunter — for Koji Uehara on July 30, 2011. A fifth-round pick by the Rangers back in 2006, Davis had spent parts of four seasons trying to establish himself in Texas, mostly with diminishing returns, not to mention a fair amount of shifting between third base and first base. He hit .285/.331/.549 with 17 homers in 80 games as a rookie in 2008, but slumped to .238/.284/.442 the following year, striking out a whopping 150 times in 419 plate appearances, and spending a chunk of the season back in Triple-A. Continued contact problems limited him to one homer and a .192/.279/.292 line in 45 major league games in 2010, by which point he had begun to look a whole lot like a Quad-A player. While he made a slightly better showing during his brief time with the Rangers in 2011, by that point the team had Adrian Beltre locked in at third base and Mitch Moreland at first base, with Michael Young available to back up both. Davis was suddenly expendable, hence the trade.

Thanks to improved plate discipline, Davis broke out in a big way last year even while splitting time between first base, DH and the outfield corners. He hit .270/.326/.501 for the upstart O's with 33 homers — seven in the team's final seven games — as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Now Baltimore is back in the thick of another playoff hunt; with Thursday's win, the team is 42-31, two games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and leading the wild-card race. Though shaky in the run prevention department (4.59 per game, 12th in the league), the Orioles are third in scoring at 4.93 runs per game, and they have three players among the league's top 10 in WAR, with Manny Machado first at 4.3 and J.J. Hardy ninth at 2.7. At this point, it's safe to conclude that both the hitter and the team are for real.

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