Davis steamrolling in right direction for A's

Slugger showing a much more discerning eye at the plate

Davis steamrolling in right direction for A's

ARLINGTON -- As Khris Davis tries to minimize his strikeouts while maintaining his power numbers, the A's left fielder is quietly discovering baseball's other true outcome.

Davis had never drawn more than 44 walks in a season before this year. In Friday's 5-3 loss to the Rangers, he picked up his 72nd and 73rd free passes -- 31 more than he totaled in his first season in green and gold.

This is somewhat surprising to Davis, and somewhat not.

"Before the season started, I was telling myself, how many 3-2 counts am I going to win and how many 1-1 counts am I going to win?" Davis said recently. "That's what I'm going to pay attention to at the end of this year and build off that for next year."

Davis has worked 120 full counts this season, 35 more than last year, and more than one-third of these plate appearances (42) have ended in a walk.

"I think it comes with experience," Davis said. "Instead of going out of the zone and getting it, hopefully I'm going ahead and taking the walk. I know what the walk feels like now."

"He's been laying off some pitches and getting on base more," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's probably the one guy teams look at and say, 'We can't let this guy beat us,' so then they tend to expand a little bit. Now it's your job to make an adjustment and make them throw it over the plate, and he's doing a nice job of that."

Davis is seeing more pitches -- averaging four per plate appearance compared to 3.82 last year -- and his on-base percentage has risen from .307 to .332 in a year's time. His strikeout total has also increased -- from 166 to 193, third most in the American League -- but his power has remained.

Reggie Jackson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi never did what Davis has done for an Oakland team, enjoying consecutive 40-homer seasons.

With two games to play, Davis is still sitting on 42 homers, just as he did at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign. Only Giancarlo Stanton (86) has more over the last two years.

"I try not to worry about the strikeouts," said Davis, who also has a career-high 108 RBIs. "It hurts sometimes coming to the field knowing that I'm leading the league in strikeouts, but at the same time I'm still hitting for my power. It comes and goes. It's been that kind of year. Really high and really low."

That's been a constant in Davis' five-year career, but how he handles these ebbs and flows has changed.

"I've been able to turn a negative into a positive," he said. "I had a fan snap at me, and it really [bothered] me. I ran in and couldn't wait to hit. I knew I was going to get a hit, and I ended up hitting a home run. Before, it would steamroll a little and have a snowball effect. This year I feel like I've been able to flip the switch. Now it steamrolls in the right direction.

"I just want to keep playing hard for the boys. Sometimes I get mentally shut off and get quiet, but I want to keep getting better at the mental side, and that's part of evolving as a hitter."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.