The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.
If you want to read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.
Up next: pitcher Wade Davis.
As much as we all want Wade Davis to be a number three starting pitcher, it just doesn’t look like that is going to happen. He just isn’t consistent enough to be trusted as a starter.
His career splits between games as a starter, and those in which he appeared in relief are pretty telling. He is below average as a starter – 4.57 ERA, and a 1.452 WHIP. As a reliever, he is pretty darn good – 2.24 ERA, and a 1.046 WHIP.
The numbers go deeper than just ERA and WHIP. His Strikeouts per 9 innings are 10.5 in relief, and 6.3 as a starter. His Strikeouts per Walks is 2.85 out of the pen, and 1.88 when he starts the game. His Batting Average in Balls in Play is .245 as a reliever, and .305 as a starter.
It is not unusual for a pitcher to pitch much better in relief than as a starter. See Luke Hochevar. Davis just does better when a batter is only going to see him one time, and he can throw his best pitches, instead of working through his whole repertoire of pitches.
What is so frustrating about Davis is that as a starter for the Royals last year, he was either brilliant, or incredibly awful. I did a breakdown of his starts in late August. At that time, he had made 23 starts for Kansas City (he would only get one more).
Not counting his last start, which wasn’t good, Davis had 11 great starts and 12 awful starts. In his 11 good starts, his ERA was 1.95. In his bad starts, his ERA was 10.26! In his last start a few days after I wrote that article, he went 6 innings and gave up 7, which fell right into the awful start category.
So, Wade Davis was terrific in 11 starts with an ERA under 2.00, and his was horrific in 13 starts with an ERA well over 10.0! Obviously, the talent is there for Davis to be a terrific starting pitcher but no team can afford to take the chance that their starting pitcher is going to get absolutely pummeled about half the time.
Davis’ good start numbers are so good that he will surely get a chance to start again sometime in his career. If the Royals don’t give him that opportunity, someone else will eventually. Kansas City just can’t take that chance.
An interesting stat to me is how does a pitcher pitch when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Sometimes this can separate the good from the not so good starting pitchers.
In his career, Davis has an ERA of 2.34 in games he wins, but an ERA of 7.82 in games he losses. In no decisions, it is 3.45. This is to be expected. The Earned Run Average is going to be significantly worse in losses.
Now, let’s compare those numbers to those for James Shields. In wins, Shields’ ERA is 2.13, in losses 6.18, and in no decisions it is 3.80.
In wins and no decisions (which include Davis’ relief appearances), Davis and Shields are roughly the same, but in losses, Shields allows more than 1.5 runs less per loss. That is a significant difference. It is the difference between a number one starter, and a talented pitcher who shows occasional flashes of brilliance but is really no more than a really good reliever.
Wade Davis is an asset to the Kansas City Royals out of the bullpen. He can probably even be called upon to make a spot start or two if necessary. The Royals can’t be tempted though, by those 11 great starts. They need to just let Davis be a dominant reliever. He is just another fine weapon out of the bullpen.
It would have been nice for the Royals if Davis was a better starter (wouldn’t have needed to sign Jason Vargas), but if used correctly, he can still help the Royals win.
I would to take this opportunity to thank Baseball-Reference.com. Their wonderful, detailed statistics make my job easier.