Chili Davis: A cautious but, optimistic hire

For some, having a misconnection with millennials can cause a rift in communications. For Chili Davis, it costed him his job as hitting coach of the Chicago Cubs. The hitting coach has now been fired in consecutive seasons, first with the Boston Red Sox after the 2017 season, and then after the past season with the Cubs. Supposedly Theo Epstein, the brain trust of the Cubs did not want to fire Davis, but were forced to when he faced pressure from Cubs stars Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. John Harper of wrote on the situation that “”He caved,” was the way one person close to the situation put it. He’s not happy about it. He thinks its BS that the players complained about Chili, but he wasn’t going to stick with his hitting coach just to make a point.”

As a player, Davis was a career .274 hitter, and he was able to slug 350 home runs to pair with 1,372 RBIs. As a coach, Davis has had three jobs in three seasons after joining the New York Mets. There are a couple of ways to look at his tenure with his most recent teams. With the Red Sox in 2016, the Davis-coached lineup batted .282 as a collective. That team consisted of four players that hit over .300, and if you expand your scope to batters that hit over .280, there would be five players on the list. Davis is also credited with helping super-utility man Ben Zobrist achieve a renaissance season with the Cubs in 2018.

Of course, there were downsides to Davis’s tenures. Following the very successful 2016 season, the offense of the Red Sox dipped all the way to 13th in the MLB in 2017, and Davis was subsequently fired. The Cubs finished fourth in batting average last season, but poor showings from Kyle Schwarber and Bryant paired with some of the players’ disdain for Davis led to his quick departure from the Cubs. The Mets are looking for a more extended stay out of Davis, which will count on him taking the team out of the offensive gutter that they were in last season.

Simply put, the 2018 Mets were in the basement of MLB offenses. They finished tied for last in the MLB in team batting average last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, and 24th in OPS. Both the Phillies and the Mets should be far and away better offensively than they were in 2018 thanks to some additions that they made. Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and a more healthy usage of Jeff McNeil should help the Mets in their attempt to become more offensively adept in their everyday lineup. Where Davis could truly make an impact however is in the bench players on the Mets roster.

The Mets have made a commitment this offseason to creating depth on the roster, and they have done so with additions like Keon Broxton and J.D. Davis. Those are two players that have high potential, and still time to learn under their new hitting coach. If the Mets are able to have a deep, dangerous lineup, it could potentially separate them from rest of the NL East.

5 comments for “Chili Davis: A cautious but, optimistic hire

  1. Michaelta
    February 2, 2019 at 7:48 am

    Mets are optimistic with Boxton 221 hitter and and not much higher in minors Davis under 200 mlb average he may get better as he did hit in280 range with some power but what do they see in them Hopefully conforto hit and McNeil. Nimo looks good. And with cepeders out most likely full season not much power in outfield hopefully the two new guys position plays don’t hit below the rev average hopefully Cano still has couple yrs left but he is over 35 I believe. A the catching looks better.

  2. TexasGusCC
    February 2, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Dalton, you put alot into this article, but Chili Davis seems to need pages to be completely covered. From his “contact first / power second” approach, we may assume that the Red Sox had some carry over into 2018 from their former coach in that was exactly their philosophy in winning a title. But what we don’t know is, why did they fire Davis?

    Further, to quote Ralph Kiner, RIP, “singles hitters drive Chevys and homerun hitters drive Cadillacs”. Bryant and Rizzo were told to worry about contact more but they didn’t like to give up their calling card power. It will be interesting to see how they fare with a coach more to their thought process.

    While Bruxton can certainly improve, the big K guys like Frazier, Conforto, and to some extent Nimmo, can also benefit greatly from this approach. Personally, I like something closer to Kevin Long’s thinking of identifying pitches to drive. Meaning, if a player thinks line drive all the time, he may not look to lift a pitch that was good for him to drive. Therefore, I can understand Bryant’s and Rizzo’s frustration and quite possibly Bryant’s 13 homeruns. If Davis is more flexible in his insistence, than it can be helpful. If he becomes a stubborn headache, that’s not conducive to being comfortable in the box.

    • Chris F
      February 2, 2019 at 10:41 am

      I think you hot on something very X factor in your comment Gus, and for some reason something similar came to me this morning: with all the new faces, this team has a very unknown quantity with clubhouse chemistry where that be between teammates or players/coaching/FO the dynamic remains to be seen.

      I like the look of BVW so far from a people person perspective. Davis however is noted for being an old school, my way or the highway, type coach. Will that help Alonso? McNeil? What about vets like Cano facing the age 36+ cliff-of-dispair in productivity but locked into more than a decade of habits?

      Spring training will be very interesting to see. Who is the team leader and runs the clubhouse? Cano? Frazier? Nimmo? Noah? Fascinating times ahead.

      • TexasGusCC
        February 3, 2019 at 12:27 am

        Chris, some years back, Keith Hernandez explained how leadership works. Young players respect the achievements of the older players and listen. Now, there are older players that don’t get that title because they don’t strive for it. Did you ever hear of Barry Bonds as a leader? Like ever? Or the surly Jeff Kent? Rather it was Ray Durham and Omar Vizquel. Lowrie is very accomplished and has a strong reputation as a clubhouse guy. Cano, I have never heard. But, Wilson Ramos seems to be a leader also in the style of Yadier Molina and Tony Pena in that he runs the staff, and seems to let everyone know that up front.

  3. February 2, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Hitting Coach is strictly a “Service Staff” Position…The Hitting Coach does not Dictate to Hitters. He’s a helper…a confident…a Guy who will gather info and be ready to support guys when players ask for it….perhaps a bit different than the approach with debuting players.

    If it’s not approached that way by the coach, it doesn’t work. Davis needs to be a Ready Helper-Salesman when guys are shopping for help. Maybe Chili isn’t so Chill?

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