No matter how many questions Chris Davis answers about his incredible success at the plate this year, there is always that lingering one.
Thanks to the likes of Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and other not-so-clean sluggers, many baseball fans still have that one nagging doubt when they see production like Davis'.
Could it be?
The answer, according to Davis, is a resounding "no."
— Chris Davis (@ChrisDavis_19) June 30, 2013
Davis elaborated on that tweet in an interview with the Baltimore Sun.
“I have never taken them," said Davis, who also hit 33 homers last year in first true full season in the majors. . "I have no reason to. I’ve always been a power hitter. With me, I think the biggest thing was the consistency of the contact . When I was making contact, I was always hitting for power. I'm a guy that likes to work out a lot. I'm a guy that used to eat whatever I wanted to, but I started getting into my mid-20s, I’ve been seeing that change. So I’ve been taking better care of my body. I have a pretty strict diet. But I’ve never taken [performance-enhancing drugs]. I haven’t felt the need to."
So assuming Davis is telling the truth -- it's not like he has any incentive to come clean with the Baltimore Sun or any other media outlet if he were taking a banned substance -- why then has he taken such a big leap in such a short period of time?
Uptick might be expected for someone in Davis' position, but what the first baseman has done this year is flat out otherworldly. Coming into 2013 he had single-season career highs of 33 home runs, 85 RBI and 23 doubles. Halfway through this year, he's got 34 home runs, 86 RBI and 26 doubles.
Grantland's Jonah Keri pointed out that Davis switched from a routine of hitting 200 batting practice pitches to taking 60 cuts off a tee. According to Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley, this drill would allow Davis to conserve energy while also varying the location of his hits.
The new routine has combined with other factors, including Davis' age and his increased playing time, to create a solid recipe for success.
"That was a knock against me when I came to Baltimore, that I liked to work out a lot," Davis told Keri. "I thought it was funny people saw it as a negative, that it was a bad thing for someone to want to take care of his body or work on his swing. But earlier in my career, I did form some bad habits by swinging until I was exhausted. I'm still a big advocate of working out. I still believe that by working on your swing, your fitness, your pitching mechanics, or anything else, dedicating a little time each and every day, you'll see positive results. I just had to combine all of that with the right routine."
USA Today's Ted Berg also points out that Davis has improved his plate discipline, and he's making more and better contact than ever before.
As with other players across sports, it's likely that Davis' improvement is due to a number of factors, some easily discernible and some not. One of the explanations may even be out of Davis' control. Bill James, the legendary baseball writer and statistician credited with the invention of sabermetrics, hypothesized that each baseball player reaches his peak playing form at age 27. Davis turned 27 on March 17.
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