MLB: Where Does Chris Davis Suspension Leave the Orioles?

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The Baltimore Orioles have overcome many obstacles on their way to an inevitable AL East division title. Losing core players Matt Wieters and Manny Machado didn’t slow them down; nor did the subpar performance of Ubaldo Jimenez. Now that slugger Chris Davis has been banned 25 games for amphetamine use, they will face another obstacle, one capable of impacting the team deep into the playoffs. Here’s where Davis’s suspension leaves the club as the postseason looms.

Suspension details

In a statement released through the MLB Player’s Association September 12, Davis acknowledged testing positive for Adderall and gave notice he would begin the suspension immediately, starting with a double-header against the Yankees. MLB’s collective bargaining agreement allows for a first offense for stimulants such as Adderall, the amphetamine Davis used, without punishment.

Though some players have a “therapeutic use exemption” for Adderall (which Davis himself claims to have had in 2013), Davis is not currently allowed to use the drug to treat any diagnosed condition. Since suspensions follow second offenses for stimulants such as Adderall, that would make Davis’s ban the result of a pair of failed tests for drugs classified as stimulants. Stimulants such as Adderall are not considered performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) by Major League Baseball.

The hole in Baltimore’s order

With 17 games left in the O’s regular season, that leaves Davis out of the picture for Baltimore into a potential second playoff series. Should the American League Division Series (ALDS) last just three or four games with the Orioles advancing, Baltimore would miss Davis for as many as five games in the ALCS. Though he is far off his 2013 pace (53 HR, 42 2B, 138 RBI), Davis still put up big power numbers in 2014.

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Now that his regular season stats are final, Chris Davis will close 2014 with 26 HR, 16 2B, and 72 RBI, about half his production from the previous season. (Throw in a .196 batting average and .300 on-base percentage.) Nonetheless, David ranks second on the team in home runs and third in RBI at press time. Adam Jones’s terrific year (.286, 25 HR, 85 RBI) and the monster campaign of Nelson Cruz (39 HR, 101 RBI) have allowed the offense to continue humming with Davis below peak form.

Taking that into the playoffs, pitchers will be more inclined to give in to Nelson Cruz when a big bopper like Davis is not hitting behind him and neither Manny Machado or Matt Wieters are in play. Baltimore’s lineup immediately becomes shorter and top-heavy. The media circus that would surround the team if Davis returns in an advanced stage of the playoff also is worth mentioning. If the team was cruising through the playoffs, his return might be more distraction than it’s worth.

Either way, Baltimore’s chances of going deep into the playoffs mainly hinge on the team’s pitching staff. Chris Davis wasn’t the Orioles’ most menacing threat in 2014. Following his 25-game suspension, he isn’t allowed to be a factor until close to the World Series.

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