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Khris Davis leads all of MLB in home runs

The Oakland A’s slugger hit his 39th on Thursday to pass J.D. Martinez.

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Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Major League Baseball has a new Home Run King, for now. The Oakland A’s lost to the Twins on Thursday night, but along the way Khris Davis hit his 39th homer of the season to take sole possession of the MLB lead. Khrush had entered the day in a tie with J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox, who has sat atop the rankings for most of 2018.

This distinction caps an incredible run by the streaky slugger, who can get as hot as anyone in the world. After slogging through a cold spell that saw him hit just one homer in 29 games from mid-June to late-July (with a .361 slugging percentage), Khrush has now cleared the fence 18 times in his subsequent 29 contests (with an .816 slugging). Only a couple other big leaguers are even in double digits over that same stretch of time.

This absurd hot streak began on July 22, as Khrush launched six long balls over a four-day span. That tied an Oakland record, set by Mark McGwire in 1987, and to make it even better two of Khrush’s six shots were outright game-winners. Overall during this run, he’s notched three multi-homer games in around one month. Only 24 other players have three such games all season, and Khrush shares the overall lead with six (tied with Manny Machado). One of them came against Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander.

Of course, none of this will come as a surprise to A’s fans. Khrush has been a dinger monster since arriving in town, and he’s one away from his third straight season of 40 or more — that would extend his own Oakland record, and tie him with Jimmie Foxx for the franchise record. Since joining the A’s in 2016, his 124 long balls are the most by any MLB player.

  1. Khris Davis, 124
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, 118
  3. Nelson Cruz, 113
  4. Nolan Arenado, 108
  5. Edwin Encarnacion, 107
  6. J.D. Martinez, 105

No one has helped that quest more than the Rangers. Khrush has gone deep against Texas 26 times since 2016, which is the most by any player against any single opponent during that span. On a per-at-bat it’s the most ever against one opponent, reports Rangers insider TR Sullivan. More recently, Texas served up six of the 18 taters in this current hot streak.

Words don’t fully do justice to his comic book power, though. Here’s his latest jack, which went opposite field into the second deck. Most players don’t do that, but Khrush does all the time.

How often?

His spray chart illustrates his ability to go yard in absolutely any direction.

via FanGraphs

The updated 2018 MLB rankings look like this:

  1. Khris Davis, 39
  2. J.D. Martinez, 38
  3. Jose Ramirez, 37
  4. Matt Carpenter, 34
  5. Joey Gallo, 33

Also with 30+: Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz, Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper

Davis has actually done this in slightly fewer plate appearances than the closest challengers, too. Of that Top 5 list, only Gallo has fewer PAs than Khrush, to the tune of 30 trips — not enough to account for the six-homer gap.

He’s also doing this despite playing his home games in the Coliseum, which is notoriously one of the toughest places to go deep in the entire league. This year it ranks 29th in homer proficiency according to ESPN’s park factors, and it’s ranked 27th or stingier in three of the last four years. Meanwhile, Martinez plays his home games in Fenway Park, which also doesn’t rank highly in homers overall but is one of the Top 5 easiest places to score a cheap dinger without making great contact. On that note, Khrush’s average homer goes 10 feet farther than Martinez’s.

Davis was already having a career year, but it just keeps getting better. According to Statcast, nobody puts the barrel on the ball more often on a per-PA basis, and only Gallo does so more often on a per-contact basis. His 145 wRC+ is by far his career-best as a full-time player, and his 25.1% strikeout rate is his lowest since 2014. It probably helps that he’s one of the best in the business at keeping his swings to pitches within the strike zone rather than chasing balls outside of it, as noted by Eno Sarris of The Athletic.

A’s fans already knew that Khrush was one of the premier home run hitters in the sport, but the rest of the country is finally catching on now too. The only questions remaining are whether he can hold his league lead through the end of the season, which would make him the first A’s player to lead MLB (or even just the AL) since Mark McGwire in 1996, and whether he can challenge the Oakland record of 52 that McGwire set that same year.