J.D. Davis, one of the more exciting fantasy baseball players heading into the 2020 season, disappointed on the surface. So, what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020 and what should we expect into 2021? After a career year in 2019, many (including myself) expected Davis to smash once again in 2020. We plan to answer both those questions while also digging into the surface and underlying metrics to see what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020.
We analyze his batted ball profile, plate discipline, Statcast data, and pitch results. While hitting in the heart of the Mets lineup, we expected more production overall. Should we be hopeful or pessimistic with Davis moving forward? With that, it’s time to figure out what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020.
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What Happened to J.D. Davis in 2020
After J.D. Davis performed well in 2019, he unperformed in 2020 with eight home runs, 26 runs, and 19 RBI while slashing .247/.371/.389. He accumulated those stats through 56 games and 229 plate appearances. However, in 2019, Davis finished with 22 home runs, 65 runs, 57 RBI, and three steals while slashing .307/.369/.527 in 453 plate appearances. So, what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020?
If we average out his counting stats over similar plate appearances to 2019, then double the counting stats across the board, which equals to 16 home runs, 52 runs, and 38 RBI. Granted in twice as many plate appearances, Davis potentially could ride a hot streak to improve on his 2020 stats. Although the batting average dropped, Davis increased his 13.5% walk rate up from 8.4% in 2019. His 24.5% strikeout rate also increased from 21.4% in 2019, and the .355 BABIP in 2019 dropped to a .318 BABIP in 2020.
In late February 2020, Davis suffered a shoulder injury after diving for a ball on the infield. However, with the delayed season, Davis barely missed any games, and only landed on the injury report with a day-to-day hip injury. We mention the shoulder and hip injuries here as possible contributors to his struggles in the 2020 season. Sometimes shoulder and lower body injuries negatively impact a hitter, particularly with power.
Batted Ball Profile
Next, let’s look at notable changes in his batted ball profile and see what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020. When comparing his batted ball data, Davis’s 20% line drive rate dropped almost 3% while the ground ball rate increased, and the fly ball rate lowered. His 56.3% ground ball rate jumped up from 47% in 2019, and then his 23.7% fly-ball rate decreased from 30.2% in 2019.
The line drive rate aligns with his career average of 21.5%. However, the notable differences in his ground ball and fly ball rate include a career 50.6% ground ball rate and a 23.7% fly-ball rate. Over a full season, Davis’s batted ball profile likely evens out in terms of the ground ball and fly-ball rates. Another minor note, but his 31.9% pull rate decreased from 38.4% in 2019, and he typically sprayed the ball to all fields.
In terms of plate discipline, what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020? When looking at plate discipline, Davis made less contact while lowering his swing rate. His Z-Swing% dropped 5%, and in turn, his overall swing rate dropped 4%. Davis’s contact rate outside the zone dropped with a 52.4% O-Contact% in 2020, and a 65.8% O-Contact% in 2019. On the flip side, Davis increased his 82% Z-Contact% from 78.6% in 2019. His 12.5% swinging-strike rate ended up almost identical to 2019.
Notice a more patient approach overall with the lowered contact and swing rates, particularly, the O-Contact%. Hence, the increased walk rate for Davis in 2020. Davis made more contact inside of the zone, but still slightly below the league average of 84.2%. After seeing what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020, in terms of plate discipline, we like the patient approach, but hope it’s not impacting the aggressiveness and power moving forward.
In 2019, Davis crushed the ball and lit up his Statcast profile with dark red. However, in 2020, he still hit the ball hard across the board, but the percentile rankings slightly decreased. Again, slight differences, but a potential impact on the drop in power during the shortened 2020 season.
As mentioned earlier, Davis ranked inside the top 10% of the league in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and the expected stats. His 11.4% barrel rate also proved legitimate, ranking in the 80th percentile. Davis also had a 95.1 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 51) in 2019, tied with J.D. Martinez, Keston Hiura, and Mike Trout. So, what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020?
In 2020, Davis finished with a 45.2% hard-hit rate (80th percentile), only over 2% lower than 2019. His 90.1 mph average exit velocity (71st percentile) dropped about 1.5 mph from 2019. Interestingly, Davis’s 96.1 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 25) increased and ranked higher in 2020. However, we notice a difference in his 114.7 mph max exit velocity in 2019 compared to his 111.2 mph in 2020. Although a smaller sample in 2020, it provides hope moving forward to 2021 with Davis improving his average exit velocity on FB/LD.
J.D. Davis made this look like no big deal. The ball traveled 426 feet with an exit velocity of 106.8 mph.
It’s his longest and second-hardest hit homer of 2020. #Mets #LGM (via @Mets) pic.twitter.com/KS0w8ZRtu0
— Matt Musico (@mmusico8) September 4, 2020
Pitch Results – What Happened to J.D. Davis in 2020
Unsurprisingly, J.D. Davis struggled against all pitch types in 2020 compared to 2019. Davis notably experienced a difficult time against breaking pitches in 2020, but crushed breaking pitches in 2019. He still performed well against fastballs, but a slight dip across the board. Overall the struggles against fastballs and breaking pitches align and make sense after seeing what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020.
Throughout the season, every baseball player struggles. Therefore, it’s helpful to analyze the data to determine what to expect moving forward. On the surface, Davis looks like a struggling hitter who showed the hard-hit ability and ranked in the top 30% of the league. With the drop in power and production, it begs the question of whether the shoulder and hip injury impacted Davis.
Although the struggles against breaking pitches seem alarming, Davis’s average exit velocity on FB/LD in 2020 improved when compared to 2019. Chris Clegg also mentioned in his How to Use Statcast for Fantasy Baseball article that using average exit velocity on FB/LD is more descriptive and predictive for power. In the case of J.D. Davis that applies here and explains what happened to J.D. Davis in 2020 while also helping clarify his 2021 outlook.
Most hits by a #Mets player with an exit velocity of 100.0+ mph this season:
Michael Conforto: 23
Robinson Canó: 21
Pete Alonso: 18
Dominic Smith: 16
J.D. Davis: 15 pic.twitter.com/cLCxux8kxO
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) September 15, 2020
Heading into the 2021 fantasy baseball draft season, swoop in on J.D. Davis if the ADP drops. According to NFBC ADP, Davis held a 167.44 ADP with a high pick of 109 and a low pick of 235 in 2020. Even if his ADP remains similar in 2021, it’s a fair value with the power upside he provides hitting in the heart of the Mets lineup. However, the underlying metrics tell us that the quality of contact should boost his power and production back up to his 2019 season.
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