by John Viril—
Starter Wade Davis is the red-headed stepchild among Kansas City Royals pitchers. Currently scuffling with a 3-5 record and 5.37 ERA on a staff that leads the American League in ERA, Davis is the odd man out. After being touted as the “hidden value” in the Wil Myers trade due to five more years of team control, Wade Davis has disappointed most Royals fans.
He’s really been much better than his numbers.
Coming into the season, the Kansas City front office believed that Wade Davis had learned how to miss bats after spending the 2012 season in the Tampa Bay bullpen. The Kansas City scouting staff was correct. Davis has posted an 8.0 K/9 and a strikeout rate of 19.2% this season, both well above his standard as a starter with Tampa Bay. Since Davis’ walk rate of 8.8% is close to his career rate of 8.6%, most analysts would expect him to show marked improvement this season.
Instead, Wade Davis has been hamstrung by an outrageously high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .392. Davis has also suffered from a HR/FB rate of 15.8% despite posting the highest ground ball rate of his career (41.3%). Davis’ career HR/FB rate is a significantly lower 9.7%. His strand rate is also unusually low at 69.4% vs. his career average of 73.3%.
In short, his results should be better. Wade Davis’ fielding independent pitching (a sabermetric estimate based on walks, home runs and strikeouts) projects a 4.49 ERA. Normalize for park factors and opponent quality, and his xFIP is an above-average 3.94.
We could see some of Davis’ bad luck at play Tuesday night. Despite a strong start in Kansas City’s 3-2 loss to the Tigers, Davis ended up surrendering a run in the 3rd inning after Detroit 2B Omar Infante blooped a single into short right field with two outs. The seeing-eye flare put runners on first and third and allowed light-hitting CF Don Kelly to drive in a run with another soft single.
The second Detroit run against Davis scored in the 5th inning when the Royals couldn’t turn the double play on Andy Dirk‘s soft chop to 2nd base. Replays showed that SS Alcides Escobar’s throw beat the runner.
Forget about Davis’ results. Both his BABIP and home run rates should regress from their current high levels. The jump in his strikeout rate suggests the Royals can expect Wade Davis to be a solid, mid-rotation starter over the next five years.