White Sox DH Matt Davidson’s new hitting approach paying dividends

White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson walked 19 times in 443 plate appearances last season for a minuscule 4.3 percent walk rate, the eighth-lowest in the American League.

Davidson also had a 37 percent strikeout rate, making folks wonder if he’d end up more of a liability than an asset for the Sox.

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“I’m just trying to swing at good pitches, not swing at balls and walk more,” Davidson said. “If I decide to swing, [I] just swing at better pitches. I think overall the season is going to go well, so really that’s my main goal.”

Matt Davidson reacts after being called out on strikes during the ninth inning Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Nam Y. Huh/AP

Davidson now is swinging at just 35 percent of pitches he sees, down from 48 percent in 2017. He also is swinging at fewer balls by a considerable margin. This season, he has swung at just 18 percent of pitches outside the strike zone (albeit in only eight games), down 15 percentage points from last season.

Few batters fared well in the Sox’ 1-0 loss to the Tigers on Sunday, including Davidson. He walked in his first plate appearance but struck out in his other three.

However, one year after putting up paltry numbers, Davidson leads the Sox with six walks.

“I didn’t walk at all last year, really,” he said. “I just wanted to improve that.”

Davidson always has been known as a power hitter. It was just a matter of getting him to be patient enough to find his pitches to hit. That has helped him hit four home runs in just 35 plate appearances.

Davidson’s ISO (isolated power), a statistic that measures a batter’s home-run power, always has been exceptional. He had a .232 ISO last season, placing him 23rd among AL batters with 400 or more plate appearances. This season, Davidson is at .520. Although that number is due to regress to the mean, it’s still an impressive start for a player who struggled to bat even .220 last season.

With Yolmer Sanchez taking over the starting third-base job, Davidson has been the designated hitter in every game but one. The role suits him well, but it isn’t stress-free.

“Being DH, you kind of gotta distract yourself a little more because you have a lot more time to think,” Davidson said. “I’m not trying to [overthink]. I think sometimes last year when I was not doing so well, I would try to take a lot of swings and work on my swing a lot during the game, and it kind of just got me away from just going out there and competing.

“You know you got a lot more time [as DH], I’m hitting four or five times a night and sometimes there’s like an hour between at-bats. When you’re playing defense, you go play defense and try to help the team out.”

No matter what role Davidson assumes, it’s safe to say he’s building his success on a solid approach.

“I just made it a big focus to make my decision-making a little more efficient and just really focus on the decision-making itself,” Davidson said.