Never satisfied, Brewers’ Davis ‘looking to build off’ last year

Brewers left fielder Khris Davis had 22 home runs and 61 extra-base hits last season.

Lenny Ignelzi/Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

PHOENIX — There’s pressure placed on a player when a team trades a productive piece and moves a former MVP to a new position in order to get his bat in the lineup.

Last year, Khris Davis felt a need to justify the faith the Milwaukee Brewers placed in him by trading Nori Aoki and moving Ryan Braun to right field. By pressing at times, Davis felt he got away from his natural approach at the plate and became a free swinger.

"There’s nothing bittersweet about it," Davis said. "I moved on. I showed some flashes of what I can do but I also showed some inconsistencies. I’m just looking to build off that."

The positives Davis referred to are the 22 home runs and the 61 extra-base hits (tied for 10th in the National League) he finished with in his first full season in the big leagues.

But after posting a career on-base percentage of .392 in the minor leagues, Davis reached base at just a .299 clip last season by drawing only 32 walks in 549 plate appearances.

"He was different last year," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody goes through different phases. Guys change. (His walks) were too low. He’s a guy I think should be fairly patient. He sees pitches well. When he starts getting anxious, he becomes more aggressive and chases more.

"He realizes it, which is the first step. If you don’t realize it and don’t listen to other people when they tell you that, then you have issues. You have to have good self-awareness to be a good player. Sometimes these players don’t have good self-awareness. But if they had better self-awareness they’d be a better player."

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According to fangraphs.com, Davis swung at 51.0 percent of pitches thrown to him last season, including 30.2 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone.

"I think I chased a lot," Davis said. I can be more disciplined in that area. That’s what I’m going to be focusing on."

Davis hit 15 of his 22 home runs prior to the All-Star break last season, as his power disappeared as the season went along. Like the majority of Milwaukee’s lineup, Davis struggled offensively while the team collapsed.

The 27-year-old hit just .229 in the second half, including posting a .203 batting average with just five extra-base hits and four RBI during the team’s dreadful September.

"I think they were trying to do too much," Roenicke said. "Early we were good, and he was really good. I think a lot of guys were that way later. When you are struggling, you want to be the guy that picks everybody up and you press. Usually when you press it doesn’t go that way."

Davis has to hit in order to stay in Milwaukee’s lineup. He’s a fine defensive outfielder when it comes to running down fly balls, but his arm is one of the weakest in the league.

Opponents oftentimes took advantage of Davis’ arm in left field by taking extra bases and scoring from second on nearly every base hit to left.

The Brewers consider Davis their starting left fielder, but Gerardo Parra will get his fair share of playing time at the position against right-handed pitchers. Parra is a two-time Gold Glove winner, which allows Roenicke to sub him in for Davis as a defensive replacement.

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"I’m never the type of person to be satisfied," Davis said. "They say I’m their guy, but my job is to help the team win. That’s all I can do. Whatever role they tell me to do, that’s just our job as baseball players. Whatever they need, I’m a team player."

Milwaukee controls Davis at a low price until 2020, which makes him an important piece moving forward. Smaller-market teams need homegrown players like Davis to hit in order to consistently contend for the postseason.

After an up-and-down first season, Davis is hoping to reward the Brewers for their patience.

"I’d like to feel like there’s a little bit of hope," Davis said. "Previous (success) don’t mean you are going to have success in the future. That’s about it. I just have to keep working my way to that success."

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