Khris Davis doesn't care too much for the numbers, even if some of them are in his favor. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Khris Davis doesn't care too much for the numbers, even if some of them are in his favor. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A’s players, coaches balance numbers, eye test

OAKLAND — Tucked behind a short wall, which juts out into the center of the Oakland Athletics’ clubhouse, sits the locker of Khris Davis.

Long occupied by Coco Crisp, the stall, which is largely hidden from the prying eyes of reporters, is a piece of prime real estate, reserved for a senior member of the squad.

It’s also the perfect refuge for Davis — the A’s powerful and reclusive left fielder.

“I’m not a big talker,” explained Davis, who nonetheless has agreed to indulge a conversation about advanced stats — a topic he cares little about if his skeptical expression is any indication.

An adherent to the Klay Thompson school of media relations, Davis would rather do just about anything than talk about himself. The 27-year-old isn’t much for explaining how he produces such majestic home runs on a consistent basis, even as he’s listed generously at 5-foot-11.

“I think the less I know, the better I am,” Davis said. “That’s what I know about myself. [I just] play ball.”

Davis, who’s already wearing his trademark green and gold-striped socks some three-and-a-half hours before game time, is the master of the “barreled ball” — despite not having a clue what that phrase means.

Developed by Tom Tango — one of the godfathers of baseball and hockey analytics, who goes by an alias to shield his true identity — the term is all about exit velocities and launch angles.

When a players hits a ball with an exit velocity of at least 98 mph and at a launch angle between 26-30 degrees, the “barreled” classification is assigned. For each mph beyond 98, the launch range grows an angle on either side.

Historically, when a big leaguer barrels a ball, he has a batting average of at least .500 and a slugging percentage of at least 1.500.

Informed that he accounted for the fourth-most barrels in 2016 — behind only Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Mark Trumbo and right ahead of future Hall of Famer David Ortiz — Davis shrugs.

“That’s all we want to do — just make hard contact,” Davis said. “You can’t control how much we get a hit or not. It just looks better if we just make hard contact every time. It sounds simple, huh?”

Apprised that he was the game’s most-efficient power hitter by this metric — he barreled 18.1 percent of his batted balls in play — Davis cuts off the statement before it can even be completed.

“I think there’s a stat for everything,” Davis said. “I mean, this is just one of those examples.”

Davis’ thoughts on barreled balls speak to a sentiment that is common across major league clubhouses where plenty of players — and coaches — are reluctant to embrace the numbers.

When the phrase “barreled balls” is lobbed in the direction of manager Bob Melvin during one of his daily pregame scrums, the A’s field boss immediately knows which one of his players he’s going to be asked about.

“Well, Khris Davis is pretty good as far as launch angle and exit velocity, I would think,” Melvin said. “Is that who you’re talking about?”

The manager, who had a front-row view of Davis’ 42-home run 2016, isn’t fully sold on the validity of exit velocities and launch angles either.

“It’s impressive,” Melvin said of Davis, who’s one of just five Athletics in the Oakland era to top the 40-home run plateau.

“We all know his power’s impressive and even more impressive to the opposite field,” Melvin added. “A lot of guys supply these exit velocities and such to the pull side and he can do that opposite field too. So, for me, a hit’s a hit no matter how hard you hit it.”

Melvin isn’t convinced that exit velocity is the “end-all, be-all,” pointing to Jharel Cotton’s opening week start when a sequence of seeing-eye singles did in the rookie.

In a coincidental twist, hours after Melvin had talked stats, general manager David Forst made the same point during his weekly interview with Damon Bruce on 95.7 The Game. The GM mentioned that all of the runs-scoring hits against Cotton had come on batted-balls with an exit velocity under 80 mph.

While the front office is famously analytical and Melvin leans more old school, a middle ground had been reached — if briefly.

“You know what?” Melvin said, when asked if he prefers sabermetrics or the eye test. “Both. A little of both. I think you can go too far either side. So I think there’s kind of a delicate balance.”

Then, quick to realize that what he’d said could upset his superiors, Melvin diffused the dugout with a laugh.

“I could be getting myself in trouble with that,” Melvin joked.

Bob MelvinKhris DavisMLBOakland Athletics

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