Chris Davis had just finished up his second season at Princeton. It hadn’t been a great year. It was frustrating for Davis, because in his heart he knew he was putting in the necessary amount of work to be a successful hitter in the Ivy League. The thing was, his head was telling him he might not be doing the right work.
So, in the summer of 2018, Davis took a leap of faith and a flight out to Washington to visit Driveline, because he had liked some of the philosophical hitting discussions he had seen from Kyle Boddy and Jason Ochart on Twitter.
It was love at first sight for Davis, who could talk hitting for 20 hours per day if you’d let him. At Driveline, he met his match in that regard. The trainers at Driveline spoke to him in absolutes, which had a way of clicking in his head.
“When I would talk with trainers, they would start from a place of like, ‘This is true. Hitting the ball harder is better. Swinging the bat faster is better,’” Davis said. “And they would show me the data on why those things are better.”
For Davis specifically, his initial motion capture showed that he didn’t swing the bat fast enough and he needed to get rid of his negative attack angle. So he got to work on some real, worthwhile training, and he started to feel better in the box.
Back at Princeton for his junior year, he took off.
Davis’ slugging percentage jumped 93 points, from .314 his sophomore year to .407 in his junior campaign. In just 30 additional at-bats from the previous season, he tripled both his doubles and triples output, more than tripled his RBI total, struck out less and walked more.
The way he talks about it, his success on the field was due to the struggles he encountered off of it at Driveline.
You can’t hide anything in a motion capture setting, Davis explained. You can identify a problem and work on it in the cage. And at a certain point, it will start to feel like it’s getting better. But feels are feels and data is data. One can lie, one can’t. That motion capture will tell you whether you’re making progress or not.
It was during those times when the motion capture told Davis that he was not, in fact, making progress that were frustrating. But it also kept him from thinking a problem was fixed when it really wasn’t, and that’s where the real danger can lie in training.
That data-driven process has Davis raking right now. He played this past summer on the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers of the United Shore Professional Baseball League, and hit his way to a .987 OPS in 163 at-bats.
He led the league in hits, runs scored, on-base percentage, total bases, walks and triples. He was second in slugging percentage, RBI and home runs. Fourth in batting average and doubles. He was voted the MVP of the league at the end of the season.
The plan remains the same for next year as he looks for his next opportunity – train at Driveline, get better, rake. Why change?