Before the 2013 season, the Kansas City Royals made drastic changes to their starting pitching. As a result, Royals starters finished the season with a 3.87 ERA, up from the 5.01 they posted last year. In addition to this, Royals starters pitched 96 2/3 more innings than last year. This allowed an excellent Royals bullpen to have plenty of rest.
In general, the starting pitching was better than it has been in many years, but how did the Kansas City Royals rotation perform individually? This article features the other pitcher who came over from Tampa in exchange for Wil Myers, Wade Davis.
When Davis moved to Tampa’s bullpen in 2012, he saw a large increase in the number of batters he struck out. Upon acquiring Davis, the Royals decided to move him back into the rotation, hoping that his increase in strikeouts would stick, similar to the way Zack Greinke‘s strikeout rate rose when they moved him to the pen and back. The Royals’ plan worked. During his two full seasons as a starter in Tampa, Davis struck out 15.7% and 13.2% of the batters he faced. This year, Davis stuck out 18.5% of the batters he faced. The ability to hold onto this stark improvement would lead to much greater success for Davis this year. This is because the amount of runs given up by Davis this year were pretty fluky. Make no mistake about it, batters teed off against Davis this year. Among balls put in play against Davis, over 27% were line drives. This is an absurdly large number which should indicate that Davis is just easy to hit; However, that might not be the case. For his career, batters have hit line drives against Davis at around a 21% clip. This is still fairly high, but Davis does something very well which helps mitigate this. Against Davis, batter pop up all the time. For his career, over 13% of the fly balls hit against Davis are popups. This is a staggering number, and here’s some perspective to show why. There where 120 Major League pitchers who threw at least 130 innings this year (Davis was at 135). Among these players, Davis had the highest pop-up rate at 15.7%. Wade Davis has clearly shown that this is a sustainable skill he possesses and it should help him keep his numbers down next year.
Despite all the signs pointing in a positive direction, Davis was still abysmal this year and that’s hard to ignore. While his 5.32 ERA this year may not accurately predict how well he will do next year, it was a huge negative for a Royals team with playoff aspirations. If he hopes to be a part of the rotation next year, Davis has got to get his ERA down to the low 4’s. The best way that Davis can help improve his numbers is to get better control of his curveball. When Davis was a reliever in the Tampa bay pen, he used his curveball 26% more often than he did for KC. This is mostly due to the fact that he had trouble controlling his curve this year. Davis needs control of his curveball for two important reasons. The first reason is that his curveball is very good when it’s on. Secondly, Davis has used his changeup in lieu of his breaking ball due to the difficulty he has had controlling his curve. As our own Aaron Reese has pointed out, Wade Davis doesn’t have a good changeup.
Despite having an awful season this year, there are a lot of things about Wade Davis to be excited about. He was able to retain some of the strikeout improvement he gained while in the bullpen and it didn’t come at the cost of increased walks. Davis also has shown that he has a talent for getting hitters to pop up which is incredibly useful. However, Davis still needs to prove that he can have good numbers as a member of the starting rotation. After all, some pitchers just aren’t cut out for starting numbers which would indicate otherwise (Luke Hochevar). A successful season from Wade Davis would be huge in helping the Royals to their first playoff bid since 1985.