OAKLAND — Rather than deny or ignore what’s an obvious weakness in his game, A’s slugger Khris Davis opened up about the years-long mental battle he’s had regarding his outfield throwing.
If you haven’t read his first-person story in The Players’ Tribune, it’s worth doing so. It’s an honest and very open account of how, Davis explains, he developed a sort of mental block about his throwing after first entering professional baseball in 2009 with the Brewers’ organization.
It’s something he still grapples with to this day, though he says he feels more confident and well-equipped to deal with the negative thoughts that often cloud his brain when he throws a ball back to the infield.
Davis said he catches lots of flak from fans about his throwing. He knows it’s a topic of conversation. So he confronted it head-on in written form.
“It is what it is,” Davis said Thursday. “I just felt like I needed to address the problem for the next player that has to deal with the same thing.”
To quickly recap, Davis wrote that he developed a fear of over-throwing the cut-off man while playing rookie ball with Milwaukee. After a while he was silently hoping that balls wouldn’t come his way at all. He refers to the negative mentality as The Creature.
“It’s a million negative thoughts — not even necessarily fully formed, but just present — that appear at the worst possible moment,” he wrote. “It saps all of your confidence when you’re about to do something that you know you’re fully capable of doing well.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin commended Davis for even addressing the issue in such a public manner.
“I’ve known about this for a while. For him to actually come out and do it takes some courage, and I think it gives you a little bit of insight into what he goes through,” Melvin said. “But he does not take it to the plate with him and he’s been consistent with us and he’s one of the premiere power hitters in the league.”
It’s undeniable that opponents often take an extra base against the A’s on balls hit to left field. They get more aggressive than they typically would.
What fans don’t see is the effort that Davis puts in trying to improve his throwing. He and A’s outfield coach Mike Aldrete spent lots of hours on the back field at Hohokam Stadium this past spring working on throwing drills. And Davis often does technique drills at the Coliseum right up until close to first pitch.
“We’re not looking for him to throw like Roberto Clemente,” Aldrete said during the spring. “What we’re really working on is trying to stop guys from taking extra bases. … To me, it’s a lot like speed. No one’s ever going to make me a 100-meter Olympic champion. But whatever I’ve got today, if I can work on it and be faster than I am today, that’s a good thing.”