It starts with two shutout innings against the 2010 American League champions. Three strikeouts scattered around one hit. No walks.
The next time out, it’s another two innings, with two runs surrendered and yes, a walk. But just the one and after four early innings, you’re looking at a four-to-one K/BB ratio. The two runs are bad, but overall it’s a 4.50 ERA, which isn’t terrible.
Oh, but then you get the fun outing. Three scoreless, three more strikeouts.
Out of nowhere, Kyle Davies is sitting there with a 2.57 ERA, seven strikeouts and just two walks over seven innings.
Not so fast.
On Sunday, Kyle Davies took the hill for his fourth spring start, facing the Milwaukee Brewers. He went in looking like he had sorted some things out. The scouting has always said that Davies had pretty good stuff, but he’s had troubles with the big inning. Or letting up after six good innings and blowing something apart in the seventh. Maybe it’s fatigue, maybe it’s focus, but he’s been notorious for looking like the prospect he once was for part of a start, then turning back into the pumpkin we all expect.
Late last week I’d planned to write that column praising Davies for figuring it out and stepping up. I hesitated. Seven innings? Let’s give him one more start. I didn’t want to praise someone for something I wasn’t sure he’d keep up, then have him show me to be a fool.
It seems my gut was right. Beward the short sample size, as all the good showings this spring went up in smoke after Davies two inning, eight hit, five run performance today. He struck out four and didn’t walk any, but he doesn’t seem to have changed at all.
In 2010, Davies was fifth in walks allowed, ninth in hits allowed and fourth in runs allowed in the American League. He had a WHIP for the season of 1.557.
Going into 2011, he could be the Royals #3 starter on paper.
In 2008, according to FanGraphs, Davies threw his fastball 61.4% of the time, and while it wasn’t a pitch that carried positive value (-.24 runs over every 100 pitches), over the course of his career, it was the best performance as a regular with the pitch and the most he’s thrown it as a regular. Since, the less he’s thrown it, the less successful he’s been with it. Oddly, it’s also added about a mile of average velocity.
His best pitch in 2008 was his curveball, according to the same data. It was 5 runs above average. The following year, he threw it more often (by 7.2%, about a 50% increase). It became a negative pitch.
Maybe it’s not as simple as saying “If Kyle Davies throws more fastballs, he’ll end up becoming more successful with it. If he’s then throwing less curves, they’ll be more effective, too.” If it were that simple, I’m sure someone would have noticed it and implemented it.
It seems like the only way to get Davies to stop getting lit up is to have him pitch less. After agreeing to pay him $3.2 million, though, he’s not going anywhere. The Royals can’t trade him, they won’t cut him, and he won’t end up in the minors. Like Jason Kendall, I think we’re stuck with him for 2011 at least.
As we get closer to opening day, I don’t want to be the grouchy, negative guy yelling about how our guys stink. It depresses me to get that way, but we’ve been waiting for Davies to get it in gear four years, and at this point, it seems that 2008 and that mythical September is the peak.
He’s just gone downhill since. Can he turn it around? Maybe. He’s only 27 years old and from time to time he does have pretty good stuff. His career FIP sits at 4.95, so he carries a lot of blame for his failings.
If he wants to stick around for 2012, he’s going to have to turn that corner. We’ve waited long enough.