The Truth About Rajai Davis

is that he's a drag queen. No, I'm kidding. I just said that because what I love about being an AN writer is that I can start a piece by surprising the reader with a complete non-sequitor before getting on to the business at hand. How many times do you think Susan Slusser, or Mychael Urban, or AP Writer has secretly wanted to throw something completely wacky out there, just for a change of pace, and then has come to his, her, or its senses and decided it would be wiser just to recite the attendance? I love my job. Anyway...

Watching Rajai Davis all year, I wanted to go back to his early season performance and add one observation on what was going wrong before -- compared to this stretch of pure brilliance, in which he is hitting, running, and fielding like an All-Star. One reason many fans, myself included, were down on Rajai in April and May is that his batting and getting on base aside, Davis was also not doing other things well: For example he made several blunders in CF, from dropping balls on the run to juggling caroms while runners advanced key bases. What was going on here?

What I want to point out is that these mistakes were almost always in the "frantically trying to do too much" category, and almost always came in situations where "giving 110%" -- and in this case I mean spazzing out instead of being calm -- would backfire. Just as it can, in some situations, be problematic for Sweeney to calmly field a carom, tap the glove, uncork, and throw, on plays when microseconds matter, it is equally problematic to play a carom while the winning run is trying to score from first by going "ZOMG, IHAVETOGETTHEBALLASQUICKLYASPOSSIBLEANDGETIT BACKTOTHEINFIELDORWE'REGONNALOSE! Dang, now I've kicked the ball!!!!!!" I remember 3-4 times, over a short stretch, where Davis tried to do too much and as a result made things far worse, once running down a fly ball only to drop it with runners on base, once kicking around a carom on a pivotal sequence, once getting picked off, and so on.

Now that he is getting regular playing time, has more leeway to make a mistake here or there without it being magnified, and is playing with more confidence -- and I think as a result, more calm -- Rajai Davis is playing far better. He won't, of course, be able to sustain the .333 batting average, or the 1.000 OPS, he has put up during this reign of terror. The question is: If he can calm down and just play with confidence, to what level can he regress?

This brings me to my next point, which is that if Rajai Davis can put up a .340 OBP he's a good starting OFer. Speed may not go into slumps and it may create spark, energy, and excitement that is infectious -- and put in the group that believes all this absolutely happens and is extremely real and valuable -- but speed does have to get on base in order to help an offense. The batting average is, to me, unimportant -- Rajai, whether he walks or hits, needs to get on base, period. The slugging percentage is pretty unimportant too, because Rajai's "doubles" and "triples" will come from his feet; when he's on 1B he can slug his way to 2B in a different way than Landon Powell can, get himself around to score all by himself in a different way than Jack Cust can.

For Rajai, his offensive value is really tied into his ability to get on base, and if he can get on base about 34% of the time or more, with his baserunning speed, his base-stealing ability, his ability to disrupt and distract, and his ability to play a solid defensive CF, he's helping you, period.

Is Rajai a late bloomer -- a guy who has finally calmed down and harnessed his ability -- or is he a one-month wonder whose deal with the devil to channel Rickey for 30-days is about to expire? I am pretty sure the guy can run down fly balls just like he's been doing lately -- that what he did in April and May was the outlier -- and that as a baserunner he will do you far more good than harm. The answer to the question lies, IMO, in the answer to the singular question: When Rajai regresses to the production he can maintain, can he get on base 34% of the time?

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